400 DC National Guard Members Activated, on Standby to Protect Monuments

Protesters in Washington, D.C., have called for the removal of two statues on federal land, including one within sight of the White House

Four hundred members of the D.C. National Guard are on standby in the capital, prepared to protect monuments if demonstrators target them again.

The members were sent to the DC Armory and none had been sent to monuments, said LTC Chris Mitchell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said early Wednesday afternoon.

Protesters have demanded the removal of two statues on federal land in D.C.: one of Andrew Jackson near the White House and another of Abraham Lincoln in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Monday night, a group of protesters had vandalized a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square outside the White House. Some scaled the statue, tied ropes around it and moved to pull it down.

U.S. Park Police officers with batons and protective shields pushed the crowd back. The officers used pepper spray, the National Park Service confirmed.

Protesters and Police Clash Over Andrew Jackson Statue Near White House

The National Guard soldiers activated this week will not be armed, but will serve as "uniformed deterrence" in support U.S. Park Police in protecting any key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction, Mitchell said.

According to the Pentagon, the Guard's role is to help maintain street and park closures and manage any crowds.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy approved the deployment, Mitchell said.

Since protests against police brutality and racism erupted in the wake of George Floyd's killing in the custody of Minneapolis police, protesters across the nation have torn down or defaced statues of Confederate generals or figures such as Christopher Columbus.

The demonstration against the Andrew Jackson statue, in sight of the White House, provoked the ire of President Donald Trump.

Trump threatened any protesters who vandalized a statue up to a decade in prison under a federal law protecting monuments of members of the U.S. armed forces.

On Tuesday night, protesters held a peaceful rally around a statue of Abraham Lincoln standing over an emancipated Black man. The demonstrators called for its removal.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has requested the U.S. Park Service remove the statue, but urged protesters not to take action themselves.

Federal forces' policing of Black Lives Matter protests in the District during the first weeks of June drew sharp criticism, especially after tear gas was used at points and a helicopter hovered low over demonstrators.

Officials say about 1,200 D.C. Guard members were deployed during that unrest, alongside more than 3,000 Guard members from other states.

Stay with News4 for more on this developing story.

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