Above photo: Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park across from the White House, June 22, 2020. By Tasos Katopodis via Getty Images.
As protests over racial injustice and the death of George Floyd continue to sweep the nation, some protesters have tried to topple Confederate monuments and statues of slave-owning presidents.
Jackson owned at least 95 slaves at his Tennessee plantation and brought some of them with him to the White House, per the White House Historical Association.
Four men have been charged with the destruction of federal property for allegedly trying to tear down a statue of US President Andrew Jackson in Washington, DC last week, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The men are accused of damaging and attempting to tear down a statue depicting Jackson on June 20 in Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park that sits right across the street from the White House and has been the site of racial inequality protests in recent weeks.
The four men charged are 47-year-old Lee Michael Cantrell from Virginia, 20-year-old Connor Matthew Judd from Washington, DC, 37-year-old Ryan Lane from Maryland, and 37-year-old Graham Lloyd from Maine.
According to the criminal complaint, which was unsealed on Saturday, Cantrell was seen on video trying to “pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap,” and Judd was caught on video trying to pull down the statue. Lane can be seen on video fastening a rope on one part of the statue and pulling on another rope attached to the statue, and Lloyd was allegedly seen on video breaking off the cannon wheels at the statue’s base, as well as pulling on ropes attached to the statue, the complaint said.
Acting US Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement that while his office is committed to protecting individuals’ First Amendment right to peacefully protest, “these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
According to the Washington Post, protesters chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Andrew Jackson’s got to go” as some of them attempted to bring down the statue. But police intervened, leaving the statue of Jackson standing.
As Black Lives Matter protests sweep the nation, some protesters have been demanding the removal of Confederate monuments and statues of slave-owning presidents and, in some cases, attempting to tear them down themselves.
Jackson, who was president from 1829 to 1837, owned at least 95 slaves at his plantation in Tennessee, and he brought some of those enslaved individuals with him to the White House, according to the White House Historical Association. He “ordered harsh, even brutal, punishment for enslaved people who disobeyed orders,” per the association.
At least 10 other presidents, including George Washington, were slave-owners, the Post noted.
Some US cities have begun the process of officially removing statues dedicated to the Confederacy, an unrecognized republic that existed for four years during the American Civil War and fought to protect the institution of slavery.
In Mobile, Alabama, after a statue of a Confederate officer was vandalized by protesters, Mayor Sandy Stimpson ordered that the statue be removed by the city. In Jacksonville, Florida, the mayor took down a statue and plaque honoring fallen soldiers of the Confederacy after multiple Black Lives Matter protests. Soon after the statue was removed, the mayor said all remaining Confederate monuments in the city would be taken down.