By Alexander Mallin, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Federal prosecutors have charged another individual allegedly involved in vandalizing the statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Park last week.
Jason Charter, who self identifies in social media profiles as a supporter of the anti-fascist movement antifa, was charged Friday with two counts of destruction of federal property based on videos that appear to show him participating in the vandalism of both the statue of Confederate general Albert Pike as well as the Jackson statue.
According to an affidavit submitted to the DC District Court, Charter was seen on surveillance footage “standing inside the gated area of the Jackson Statue and directing others” carrying out the vandalism and was also seen helping individuals adjusting ropes they used to try and tear the statue down.
While their attempts to remove the statue were unsuccessful after authorities stepped in, Park Police said last week that it could cost upward of $78,000 to repair the damage done by the vandals.
Four other men were similarly charged late last week for their involvement in the attempt to topple the Jackson statue after investigators were able to track down their identities pulling both from surveillance video as well as social media posts shared publicly from those near the area at the time of the incident.
The FBI said Charter was similarly identified based on surveillance footage and added that after the vandalism of the Pike Statue he posted on his Twitter, “Tearing down statues of traitors to the nation is a service to this nation not a crime.” Charter then posted images on his Facebook later in the night stating, “Death to all Confederate Statues,” the FBI said.
In most cases, protesters have sought to single out removing statues commemorating figures from the Confederacy, though in certain areas such calls have extended to figures like Jackson — considering his time as a slave owner and his forced removal of Native Americans off their lands.
It was not immediately clear as of Thursday afternoon whether Charter has retained a defense attorney. He is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.
While Charter has praised the antifa movement repeatedly in social media posts and his Twitter bio includes the hashtag ‘#IAmAntifa,’ the affidavit filed by the FBI doesn’t seek to directly connect him to the group. This is despite a concerted effort from both President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr to pin responsibility on antifa for much of the violence around the country stemming from protests over the death of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody in May.
Instead, it’s been the right-wing boogaloo movement that has been singled out by name following arrests of several members accused of threatening to carry out violent attacks.
The latest arrest comes as Trump in a video posted to his Twitter account Thursday morning doubled down on his hard-line rhetoric against the recent vandalism of statues in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“Lawlessness has been allowed to prevail, we’re not going to let it prevail any longer,” Trump said. “They go to prison for ten years if they hurt our monuments or our statues.”
The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it planned to launch rapid deployment teams to protect federal monuments over the Fourth of July weekend, though it was not clear whether the deployment was a response to any specific threat or planned protest.
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