Asked about Trump’s request to restore the statue to Pike, the National Park Service responded: “The intention is for the National Park Service to mitigate any damage to any statue, monument and memorial damaged as a result of any criminal activity.”
The Marshals ’assistance in protecting monuments deemed racist or problematic is starkly the opposite of when Marshals protected James Meredith, the first black man to attend the University of Mississippi, under President John F. Kennedy. That moment in 1962 is considered to be one of the most proud in the history of the U.S. Marshal.
“The U.S. Marshal’s Office does not confirm or deny any potential executive activity,” the agency said in response to a request for comment.
And Trump plans to sign an executive order protecting national statues and monuments in the next few days, he said Wednesday. The essence of the order was not immediately clear, and officials said they were still preparing it.
The efforts represent a concerted push by the Trump administration to protect and maintain monuments and statues, even those related to the country’s racist past, mimicking his efforts earlier this month to crack down on protests.
Trump on Wednesday characterized attempts to remove racist or problematic monuments as extremes.
“I think a lot of people tearing down statues have no idea what a statue is, what it means, who it was when they tore it down,” Trump said, referring to the tearing down of the Union General’s bust and former President Ulysses S. Grant as an example.
“Now they’re watching Jesus Christ, they’re watching George Washington, they’re watching Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. It’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen while I’m here,” Trump said.
There are no widespread reports of activists tearing down statues of Jesus.
Some have called for the removal of the statue of Lincoln in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill, because his depiction of the sixteenth president standing above the freed goods is considered problematic.
While Trump cited names like Washington, Lincoln and Jesus, his efforts to preserve the monument stemmed from attempts to remove statues of Confederate generals and soldiers. Trump said they should not be removed.
He did not mention the Confederate statues on Wednesday, arguing that Democrats “could be less worried about whether this would happen or not”.
“I think it got the American people. So we’re going to have a very strong executive order. It’s going to happen very soon before the end of the week,” Trump said.
In a recent Quinnipiac University survey, 52% of Americans said they supported the removal of Confederate statues.
“The Columbia District National Guard is responding to a request to support law enforcement officers and has sent unarmed personnel, along with others on standby,” National Guard spokesman Robert Perino said in a statement to CNN. “Activated guardsmen are expected to provide security to local monuments and critical infrastructure.”
A defense official said Secretary of War Ryan McCarthy signed a memorandum Tuesday approving the activation of DC National Guard forces, after National Park police asked for help.
The official strongly stressed that the Guards forces had not yet been sent to the streets and so far they have all remained in their barracks. There are currently about 100 troops in the immediate Washington area, DC. Activation could rise to 400 for hull rotation if needed. The Pentagon expects the protective forces to be used as a deterrent until the Justice Department can gather additional federal law enforcement personnel to take over the mission, a defense official said. Despite this, guard units are expected to remain in the DC area until July 4th.
CNN’s Evan Perez, Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.