Biden revokes Trump’s monuments ‘garden’ and executive order to punish statue vandals

President rescinds several partisan-driven orders that never materialised

Alex Woodward
New York
Saturday 15 May 2021 00:17
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Joe Biden has reversed a series of executive actions issued by Donald Trump, including his plans for a monuments “garden” and an order for federal law enforcement to prosecute people who damage monuments “to the fullest extent permitted”.

The former president issued his directives in the thick of his culture war grievances during antiracist demonstrations, though they did not amount to any policy changes or significant White House plans.

During a speech at the foot of Mount Rushmore on 4 July, 2020, Mr Trump proposed a sculpture garden to honour “great figures of America’s history” after issuing an executive order to protect monuments from protesters – who had largely targeted Confederate statues and Jim Crow-era relics to the Lost Cause – as uprisings across the US raged against police violence and systemic racism.

Mr Trump’s plans for a “National Garden of American Heroes” – which was to include statues of Amelia Earhart and Harriet Tubman as well as former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and evangelical leader Billy Graham – were never funded.

Partisan-driven language in the order directed at prosecuting vandals targeted “rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists” who have “sought to advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust.”

Federal law already prohibits vandalising or destroying certain monuments punishable up to 10 years in prison.

The president also rescinded an executive order from May 2020 that Mr Trump used in an attempt to challenge Section 230 – a part of the Communications Decency Act that provides a level of immunity to platforms for the content posted by users – by calling on federal agencies to punish companies for their moderation policies.

The order accused companies of “selective censorship” of right-wing views, as companies began to block, label and remove users and content containing false and threatening information.

Mr Biden also revoked an order that the former president issued in October 2019 that would have restricted entry into the US to people who could prove they were insured or pay for their health bills. That action was blocked in federal court.

“My administration is committed to expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Mr Biden said in a statement. “We can achieve that objective, however, without barring the entry of noncitizens who seek to immigrate lawfully to this country but who lack significant financial means or have not purchased health insurance coverage from a restrictive list of qualifying plans.”

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