Four individuals who allegedly attempted to topple a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House were charged Friday with the destruction of federal property, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced Saturday.
The suspects — Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and 47-year-old Virginia resident Lee Michael Cantrell — are said to have tried both damaging and yanking down the Jackson statue with other unidentified people on June 22.
The complaint further alleges that Cantrell was captured on video attempting to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap. The complaint alleges that Judd is seen on video trying to pull down the statue, and that Lane is seen on video affixing a rope to one part of the statue and then pulling on another rope tied to the statue. The complaint also alleges that video of the incident shows Lloyd as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue. Lloyd is also captured on video pulling on ropes in an effort to topple the statue, and handing a hammer to an unidentified individual involved in the incident. Judd was arrested on Friday and appeared in Superior Court of the District of Columbia today… The remaining defendants have not yet been apprehended.
“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed,” Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement. “This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
The arrests came as the Department of Justice announced that Attorney General William Barr was creating a task force to targeting “anti-government extremists,” which will be spearheaded by Craig Carpenito, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and U.S. Attorney for the district of Northern Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
“Although these extremists profess a variety of ideologies, they are united in their opposition to the core constitutional values of a democratic society governed by law,” Barr wrote in a memo obtained by the Washington Post. “Some pretend to profess a message of freedom and progress, but they are in fact forces of anarchy, destruction, and coercion.”
Appearing Friday on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) podcast The Verdict, Barr revealed the Joint Terrorism Task Force is undertaking 500 investigations into alleged violence in the wake of protests and violent unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died while in Minneapolis police custody.
“We’ve had scores of indictments so far for such things as arson, destruction of federal property. We have right now about 500 investigations underway, so it’s picking up pace,” the attorney general said. “We are committed to holding accountable the people who engaged in this.”
“We are seeing strong evidence of coordination in many of these violent episodes” he added.
On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at protecting federal monuments across the country.
“I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence,” the president tweeted. “Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!”