Mount Rushmore shows the faces of former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Statues featuring Washington and Jefferson have been toppled in recent days, while New York City officials are removing a statue of Roosevelt and protesters in Washington, D.C. push to remove a memorial to Lincoln.
After a pundit wondered whether Mount Rushmore would be targeted next, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem replied, “Not on my watch.”
Noem, a Republican, made the vow on social media platform Twitter.
An official in Noem’s office told The Epoch Times that he couldn’t get into specifics on security measures, especially as the state prepares to welcome President Donald Trump to a fireworks show slated to take place at Mount Rushmore.
But he pointed to comments made by some social media users referring to the national monument as the “final boss” of monument and statue defacing.
The phrase refers to the typical progression in many video games. Gamers battle their way through various stages before they’re met with a boss that’s extremely hard to beat.
The official described the users as leftist activists. There are some posts referring to Mount Rushmore as the “final boss” but a review of the users’ social media accounts didn’t show clear links to activist organizations.
The review did show many of the users sharing the phrase have in the past expressed virulent anti-police messaging. Some called for abolishing the police and prisons, a call that’s being made by Black Lives Matter activists.
Noem said during an appearance Wednesday on “Fox & Friends” that the monument could be targeted, citing “some activity online where people have made threats to that.”
Local and state officials are partnering with federal law enforcement to protect the monument, the governor said.
Trump, a Republican, said Tuesday he has authorized the federal government through an executive order to arrest any person who vandalizes or destroys a monument or other federal property.
Wrongdoers will face up to 10 years in prison, Trump said, pointing to the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act and other related laws.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in a letter (pdf) to Attorney General Barr, also on Tuesday, called for the Department of Justice to move to protect federal memorials, noting that a mob of vandals nearly succeeded in taking down a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House before they were stopped by U.S. Park Police.
The department should coordinate with the FBI and all appropriate federal agencies and state governments to stop desecration of vandalism of any memorials of any kind on federal property and prioritize the prosecution of these crimes, Roy said.
Senators in Washington, meanwhile, described those behind toppling statues as “far-left radicals” who “have severed any connection to the righteous cause of racial justice.”
Most criticism of the vandals have come from Republicans but Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) joined them, saying on social media, “If one group can take down a statue of Jackson, others can topple one of Dr. King.”
“The right way to do this is to petition your local government, and demonstrate and vote if you don’t like their answer. Your perceived righteousness is not license to smash whatever you don’t like,” he added.