Trump vows to protect statues of Jesus and Lincoln from being toppled: ‘Not gonna happen’

President offered no backup for claim that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ could be next to come under attack

Trump claims that anti-racism protesters now want to remove statues of Jesus

As the debate about the future of monuments to various figures continues across the US, Donald Trump has made another in a series of pronouncements on the subject – this time vowing to protect statues of Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln.

Speaking on Wednesday at a White House press conference with the visiting president of Poland, Mr Trump said his administration and the FBI were already cracking down on protesters who’ve damaged and toppled statues, buildings and monuments, whom he views as partisan vandals.

“I think many of the people that are knocking down these statues don’t have any idea what the statue is, what it means, who it is, when they knock down [general and president Ulysses S.] Grant, when they wanna knock down Grant,” he said.

“But now they’re looking at Jesus Christ, they’re looking at George Washington, they’re looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson – not gonna happen. Not gonna happen as long as I’m here.

“As far as Democrats are concerned, I think they could care less whether or not it happens. And I think the American people get it.”

There has not been any notable suggestion to dismantle statues of Jesus Christ during the recent wave of protests, which were sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Nor is there a discernible movement to dismantle effigies of Abraham Lincoln, whose larger-than-life memorial provided the backdrop for a Trump town hall on Fox News this spring.

Thomas Jefferson is a more contentious figure. While he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, which states that “all men are created equal”, he was also slaveholder, as well as an architect of the removal of indigenous people to clear land for colonisation.

Some statues of him have been removed or relocated, albeit in some cases for their own safety.

Earlier in his remarks in the Rose Garden, Mr Trump – who has said statues of confederate soldiers should be protected from “hoodlums” – said he plans to sign an executive order that will issue harsher penalties for damaging public monuments.

“We’re gonna have a very strong executive order,” he said, “but we already have a very strong, we have the Monuments Act already, which means 10 years in jail – but I think we’re going to consolidate things.”

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