By LUKE BARR, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — As President Donald Trump ramps up his hard-line rhetoric against protesters, The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it is launching rapid deployment teams to federal monuments over the Fourth of July weekend.
The effort comes amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May — many of which have targeted Confederate and other statues and monuments.
“As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property,” said DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf. “While the Department respects every American’s right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated.”
The Department says the task force will work with the Department of the Interior and Department of Justice to establish information sharing but would not provide specifics as to what the teams would do and how many personnel would be deployed. It is also unclear whether DHS is responding to any specific threat or planned protest.
The Federal Protective Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard will be the primary agencies assisting in the deployment, according to a senior DHS official.
Trump has been focusing on protecting statues and monuments, last week signing an executive order to do so.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” Trump tweeted. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”
The Department says Trump’s executive order “directs DHS, within its statutory authority, to provide personnel to assist with the protection of federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.”
Trump has tweeted numerous times about protecting statues, even tweeting the FBI wanted poster for some of the alleged suspects who tried to take down the Andrew Jackson statue outside the White House.
“We are tracking down the two Anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington Statue in Manhattan. We have them on tape. They will be prosecuted and face 10 years in Prison based on the Monuments and Statues Act. Turn yourselves in now,” the president tweeted.
Over the weekend, DOJ charged four people with allegedly trying to take down the statue.
On Fox News’ Fox and Friends Wednesday morning, Wolf said that because of the “lawlessness” of the past few weeks “the president, the administration, we are taking some really strong action.”
But the American Civil Liberties Union said the government, specifically DHS, should be focused on other critical issues.
“DHS should not be prioritizing the protection of property over the wellbeing of Black and Brown communities. DHS has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to protect human life. The fact that they are now being deputized to protect property shows exactly where this administration’s priorities are,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy for the ACLU said in a statement to ABC News. “Our government should be focusing resources on keeping communities of color safe and investing resources in investigating threats to the wellbeing of these communities not turning additional law enforcement resources against them and further militarizing our streets.”
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