Police in Washington forcefully pushed back a group of protesters late Monday who were trying to take down a statue of President Andrew Jackson in a park next to the White House.
The protesters in Lafayette Square had tied ropes around the statue so they could pull it off its pedestal. They were eventually driven out of the square by dozens of U.S. Park Police officers using batons and pepper spray.
WATCH: VOA Reporters Jason Patinkin and Ayen Bior on the scene in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump denounced the protesters on Twitter Monday night and added a warning: “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!
Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street. 10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
The site is the same area where earlier this month police forcefully cleared out protesters a short time before President Trump walked through the area for a photo opportunity at a church across the street from Lafayette Square.
The statue depicts Jackson, the nation’s seventh president between 1829 and 1837, in a military uniform atop a rearing horse, in tribute to his pre-presidential military career. But he has also been criticized for signing an 1830 law that led to the forcible removal of thousands of Native Americans from their lands in the southern U.S., an event known as “The Trail of Tears,” because many natives died as they were marched west.
Jackson also owned many slaves at his Tennessee plantation, whom he often treated harshly.
The attempt to topple Jackson’s statue is part of ongoing protests against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in the city of Minneapolis last month. The protests are part of a new backlash against perceived symbols of white supremacy, including statues, monuments and the Confederate flag, which represented the slave-owning southern U.S. states that split from the North during the 1861-65 Civil War.
Many statues and monuments have either been defaced or torn down by protesters, or removed by local officials in response to the protests.
WATCH: Mariama Diallo's video report on removal of Confederate statues in US