The Department of Homeland Security announced a new task force Wednesday centered on protecting “American monuments, memorials and statues.”
“DHS is answering the President’s call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks,” said Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, in a news release.
The Protecting American Communities Task Force will coordinate the DHS response, which may include assessing any potential unrest or deploying personnel, according to the press release. DHS will also partner with the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to share information, according to the release.
“As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property,” Wolf said. “While the Department respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated.”
Earlier this week, Wolf said the effort was being coordinated by DHS component agencies including, the Federal Protective Service, US Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.
As of Monday, ICE had not deployed its personnel but was prepared to support the department should they need assistance, according to an ICE official.
Law enforcement personnel from DHS, including ICE and CBP, were recently deployed across the US to respond to unrest stemming from protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order on protecting monuments, which directed DHS to provide personnel to assist with the protection of federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues - and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” the President wrote Friday. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
The order also tells the attorney general to “prioritize within the Department of Justice the investigation and prosecution” of those who damage government-owned monuments, citing federal law that “authorizes a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for the willful injury of Federal property.”
CNN reported that the executive order came as part of an effort to protect national monuments that Trump has previously described as part of the country’s heritage. Trump personally instructed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to restore the only Confederate statue in Washington, DC, after it was torn down last week, two people familiar with the matter told CNN.
On June 19, he tweeted, “The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn.”