D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser decried property destruction and defended city police after demonstrators toppled and burned a Confederate statue on live TV Friday night.
A group of people used ropes to take down the statue of Gen. Albert Pike outside Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. With cameras rolling, demonstrators doused the bronze statue in lighter fluid and set it ablaze.
After several minutes, a group of about a dozen D.C. officers approached the statue. An officer used a fire extinguisher on the flames and then the officers walked away.
The mayor said Monday that what demonstrators did was inappropriate.
“We don’t think any destruction of property is something that should happen in the District, regardless of how you feel about the statue,” she said at a news conference on the coronavirus pandemic.
About the police response, Bowser said, “I think they made the call on the ground that they thought was appropriate, in calling the Park Police. We believed the Park Police would handle it.”
The Pike statue was on federal land and under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and U.S. Park Police.
President Donald Trump quickly tweeted about the toppling, calling out Bowser and writing: “The DC police are not doing their job as they watched a statue be ripped down and burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!"
Jubilant protesters read Trump’s tweet over a bullhorn and cheered.
The Pike statue, dedicated in 1901, has been a source of controversy over the years. The former Confederate general was also a longtime influential leader of the Freemasons, who revere Pike. It was built at the request of Masons, who successfully lobbied Congress to grant them land for the statue as long as Pike would be depicted in civilian, not military, clothing.
Civil rights activists and some local government officials in D.C. had campaigned for years to get the statue taken down but needed the federal government's approval to do so.
“Ever since 1992, members of the DC Council have been calling on the federal gov’t to remove the statue of Confederate Albert Pike (a federal memorial on federal land). We unanimously renewed our call to Congress to remove it in 2017," the D.C. Council tweeted Friday.
A proposed resolution calling for the removal of the statue referred to Pike as a “chief founder of the post-Civil War Ku Klux Klan." The Klan connection is a frequent accusation from Pike's critics and one which the Masons dispute.