WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities have charged four men in connection with a failed effort last week to pull down the statue of US President Andrew Jackson near the White House.
In a complaint unsealed Saturday, authorities allege that the men damaged and attempted to tear down the Jackson statue, which is located in Lafayette Square, last Monday. The square has been the site of protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Those charged are Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine.
Judd was arrested on Friday and appeared in Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Saturday, authorities said. The other three have not been apprehended. The FBI and the US Park Police have been investigating the incident.
Protestors in Washington, D.C. tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the president responsible for the Trail of Tears and a hero to President Trump. Video courtesy of @jonathanchase_ pic.twitter.com/MH2t4m7MT9
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) June 23, 2020
A statement from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia says the complaint alleges that Cantrell was captured on video attempting 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.
Judd is seen on video trying to pull down the statue while Lane is seen on video affixing a rope to one part of the statue and then pulling on another rope tied to the statue, the complaint alleges.
The video also shows Lloyd as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue, pulling on ropes in an effort to topple the statue, and handing a hammer to an unidentified individual involved in the incident, the complaint alleges.
“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed,” Acting US Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement.
US President Donald Trump, who is trying to position himself as a standard-bearer for “law and order” with less than five months to go before November’s presidential election, also tweeted calls by police Saturday to identify more than a dozen other demonstrators who took part in the action.
Since the death of George Floyd, an African-American killed by a white police officer on May 25, Americans have faced a critical reckoning on the country’s racism problem.
Floyd’s death ignited mass civil unrest across the country — and, on the sidelines of those protests, several statues, including of Confederate generals and pro-slavery leaders, have been targeted pulled down.
Trump, who is running for a second term, on Friday signed an executive order pledging to enforce prosecution for protesters who vandalize public memorials.
The Republican billionaire “will never allow violence to control our streets, rewrite our history, or harm the American way of life,” the White House said at the time.