WASHINGTON -- Anti-racism protesters tried to pull down a monument of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, in a park near the White House on Monday night before police intervened.
Scores of protesters broke through a fence surrounding the 168-year-old bronze equestrian statue at the center of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. They climbed atop the sculpture and tied ropes around both Jackson and his horse before attempting to pull the statue from its base, which had been spray-painted with the word "killer."
Baton-wielding police moved in and forcibly removed protesters from the park, at times firing chemical irritants to disperse the crowds. Some people were seen being taken away in handcuffs.
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President Donald Trump took to Twitter that night, calling the efforts to topple the monument "disgraceful vandalism" of a "magnificent statue." He threatened 10 years in jail as punishment, warning "Beware!"
He later threatened anyone vandalizing a monument with 10 years in prison.
The recent civil unrest comes on the heels of the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed and handcuffed Black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25, shortly after a white police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck as three other officers watched. Protesters across the United States and around the world are calling for, among other things, the removal of contentious statues and monument depicting historical figures linked to racism, colonialism and slavery.
Jackson, a former U.S. Army general who served two terms in the White House from 1829 to 1837, has long been criticized by Native American activists for his role in forcing indigenous tribes off their ancestral lands. Many of them died in the process.
Trump, however, has repeatedly praised Jackson and even hung a portrait of him in the Oval Office.
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Earlier this month, protesters in Virginia's capital tore down a statue of Jefferson Davis, who served as the president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865.