Statues of American historical figures including two of its Founding Fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are being forcefully toppled across the country—a recent escalation President Donald Trump has explicitly denounced.
Though its unclear who exactly is behind each monuments desecration, Attorney General William Barr said recently that the Department of Justice has evidence that Antifa and other similar groups have “hijacked” initially peaceful protests triggered recently by the death of George Floyd.
At his first reelection campaign rally in months at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump linked the recent wave of statue toppling to an attempted communist-style revolution.
“This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president said on June 20. “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new oppressive regime in its place.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, called protesters tearing down a Christopher Columbus statue in Minnesota an “American Taliban.”
The president said at the rally that an “unhinged left-wing mob” is attempting “to vandalize our history … tear down our statues, and punish, cancel, and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control.”
“Were not conforming,” he said.
Statues have been torn down across multiple states. In Portland, Oregon, protesters tore down a statue of Washington on June 18; some of them wrapped the head of the statue in an American flag and then lit the flag on fire. A Jefferson statue was also toppled in Portland.
Protesters in California toppled a statue of Junipero Serra, a Roman Catholic Spanish priest widely regarded as a founder of the religious California Missions. In response, the Spanish Embassy in Washington issued a series of Twitter posts stating they “deeply regret the destruction of the statue … and would like to offer a reminder of his great efforts in support of indigenous communities.”
“We are also expressing our deep concern regarding these attacks to federal, state, and local authorities, asking that the memory of our rich shared history be protected, always with the utmost respect for the debates currently taking place,” embassy officials added.
Vandals in California have taken down statues of Francis Scott Key, who penned the national anthem, and Ulysses S. Grant, the famed general who helped win the Civil War, bringing an end to slavery in the U.S. One video taken at the scene shows a group of people dressed in black and cheering as they use a cord to pull the Key statue down.
Grant was an abolitionist who helped win a slew of battles against the Confederacy during the Civil War, forcing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to surrender in 1865. Grant went on to serve as the nations 18th president and used federal troops to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan. He worked to enforce civil rights for blacks and appointed them to prominent positions in his administration.
Grant, accused by some activists of being a slave owner, acquired one slave through marriage into a slave-owning family but freed him about a year later.
Its very sad. It makes me feel its totally out of hand and it has nothing to do with civil rights,” one local bystander told CBS SF.
In Washington, protesters toppled a memorial to Albert Pike, a former Confederate soldier. Using multiple sets of ropes, vandals pulled down the 11-foot statue of Pike and set it on fire, chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “No racist police!” Capitol Hill police are reported to have stood by and watched as the statue was taken down.
While Albert Pike was a Confederate general, the statue actually was erected to honor his service as a Freemason, according to WUSA.