Statues of American historical figures including two of its Founding Fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, are being forcefully toppled across the country—a recent escalation President Donald Trump has explicitly denounced.
Though it’s unclear who exactly is behind each monument’s desecration, Attorney General William Barr said recently that the Department of Justice has evidence that Antifa and other similar groups have “hijacked” initially peaceful protests triggered recently by the death of George Floyd.
At his first reelection campaign rally in months at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Trump linked the recent wave of statue toppling to an attempted communist-style revolution.
“This cruel campaign of censorship and exclusion violates everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president said on June 20. “They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new oppressive regime in its place.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, called protesters tearing down a Christopher Columbus statue in Minnesota an “American Taliban.”
The president said at the rally that an “unhinged left-wing mob” is attempting “to vandalize our history … tear down our statues, and punish, cancel, and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control.”
“We’re not conforming,” he said.
Statues have been torn down across multiple states. In Portland, Oregon, protesters tore down a statue of Washington on June 18; some of them wrapped the head of the statue in an American flag and then lit the flag on fire. A Jefferson statue was also toppled in Portland.
Protesters in California toppled a statue of Junipero Serra, a Roman Catholic Spanish priest widely regarded as a founder of the religious California Missions. In response, the Spanish Embassy in Washington issued a series of Twitter posts stating they “deeply regret the destruction of the statue … and would like to offer a reminder of his great efforts in support of indigenous communities.”
“We are also expressing our deep concern regarding these attacks to federal, state, and local authorities, asking that the memory of our rich shared history be protected, always with the utmost respect for the debates currently taking place,” embassy officials added.
Vandals in California have taken down statues of Francis Scott Key, who penned the national anthem, and Ulysses S. Grant, the famed general who helped win the Civil War, bringing an end to slavery in the U.S. One video taken at the scene shows a group of people dressed in black and cheering as they use a cord to pull the Key statue down.
Grant was an abolitionist who helped win a slew of battles against the Confederacy during the Civil War, forcing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to surrender in 1865. Grant went on to serve as the nation’s 18th president and used federal troops to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan. He worked to enforce civil rights for blacks and appointed them to prominent positions in his administration.
Grant, accused by some activists of being a slave owner, acquired one slave through marriage into a slave-owning family but freed him about a year later.
A statue of Mohandas Gandhi was vandalized in New York’s Central Park, as well as a statue of Miguel de Cervantes in San Francisco, a Spanish writer who was a slave himself for five years.
‘It’s very sad. It makes me feel it’s totally out of hand and it has nothing to do with civil rights,” one local bystander told CBS SF.
In Washington, protesters toppled a memorial to Albert Pike, a former Confederate soldier. Using multiple sets of ropes, vandals pulled down the 11-foot statue of Pike and set it on fire, chanting “No justice, no peace!” and “No racist police!” Capitol Hill police are reported to have stood by and watched as the statue was taken down.
While Albert Pike was a Confederate general, the statue actually was erected to honor his service as a Freemason, according to WUSA.
Amid the unrest, a June 19 ABC News/Ipsos poll found that more than half—56 percent—are opposed to changing U.S. military bases named after Confederate leaders.
In 2017, Trump predicted that statues honoring Washington and Jefferson would be eventually targeted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, on June 18 ordered the removal from the Capitol of the portraits of four Speakers who had served in the Confederacy. She also called for the removal of 11 statues, nine of whom were Democrats, from the National Statuary Hall Collection, saying they “pay homage to hate.”
Pelosi, in a June 10 letter to the Joint Committee on the Library Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the committee’s vice chairwoman, says statues in the Capitol “should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation.”
Communism expert and author Trevor Loudon called the tearing down of statues a “Maoist tactic of erasing the form of culture.”
“Maoism is about building a new man, a new society,” Loudon told The Epoch Times. “You have to destroy all remnants of the old society. You have to destroy memorials and the former culture so you can build a new society.”
According to Loudon, Marxist organizations such as Liberation Road and the Workers World Party have both been involved in the recent escalations.
“They are following the line of the Chinese Cultural Revolution,” said Loudon, who is also a contributor to The Epoch Times. “The Cultural Revolution wiped out the previous Chinese culture; they toppled statues and desecrated monuments.”
The endgame, Loudon says, is to usher in an American revolution that involves the destroying of the U.S. Constitution and the destruction of U.S. history.
“All of this is linked; all of this is revolutionary activity to destroy the old culture … and build a new socialist society in its wake.”
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.