The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will station special “Rapid Deployment Teams” around the country for the July 4 holiday to guard monuments from vandalism, following numerous attempts by activists to tear down statues.
Police officers specially trained in crowd and riot control will deploy to a number of American cities for the weekend surrounding Independence Day, including Seattle, Portland and Washington, DC, Fox News reported, citing an unreleased DHS memo.
“The upcoming July 4th holiday weekend has the potential for increased disruptive activity at specific locations across the country that could threaten our personnel and the Federal facilities and property they protect,” wrote acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf in the memo, adding “DHS will be forward leaning in preparing to protect federal facilities and property.”
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The move comes as US President Donald Trump takes up an increasingly aggressive stance toward vandals, vowing to unleash “serious force” on those who deface statues or monuments. In recent weeks, anti-racism protesters spurred on by the police killing of George Floyd have descended on a variety of different monuments around the US, vandalizing and in some cases outright destroying the statues, many of which they deem a celebration of slavery, the Confederacy or other historical abuses. Protesters in DC, for example, fixed ropes to a statue of former US President Andrew Jackson last week, attempting to topple the bronze sculpture before being driven away by police pepper spray.
Last Friday, Trump signed an executive order mandating the protection of American monuments, memorials and statues, reiterating that vandals would face “long prison terms” of up to 10 years. The DHS deployment comes as a result of that order, according to Fox.
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In addition to the special police teams stationed in cities, extra regional units will remain on standby, ready to deploy to any area in a matter of hours in the event of unrest. The Federal Protective Service, another policing body, will also have a beefed up presence around certain government facilities.
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