Listen Live

In response to the attempt to bring down the statue of President Andrew Jackson that sits in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that he had “authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument” under a relatively recent but little-known piece of legislation.

While Trump does not have to authorize the government in order for action to be taken, the tweets and comments he has made in recent days highlight his growing frustration with protesters’ attempts to remove statues and monuments around the country.

Trump’s tweet on Tuesday referred to an act passed in 2003 called the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act. The legislation sets penalties for defacing or destroying monuments and statues.

The legislation was passed with bipartisan support in response to acts of vandalism at various veterans’ cemeteries across the country.

Trump told reporters Tuesday that he plans to sign an executive order to “reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way.”

“We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators and call it whatever you want,” Trump said before he left for a campaign event in Arizona. “Some people don’t like that language, but that’s what they are. They’re bad people. They don’t love our country. And they’re not taking down our monuments, I just want to make that clear.”

Trump thanked police for stopping the protesters from taking down the Jackson statue, saying that “numerous people” are already in jail and more are going “today.”

What does the act say?

The legislation is short by Washington standards — less than one page long. It reads:

“Whoever, in a circumstance described willfully injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

Does it apply to all monuments in the country?

No, the legislation only applies to monuments or statues for people who served in the armed forces of the United States. A statue of Christopher Columbus, for instance, would not be protected under the act.