(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The statue of U.S. President Jackson is silhouetted against the White House in Washington
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of unarmed Washington D.C. National Guard troops were on standby to assist law enforcement personnel with protecting some historical monuments, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, after protesters tried to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in a park near the White House.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday pledged to take a hard line on anyone destroying or vandalizing U.S. historical monuments and threatened to use force on some protesters, as political activism against racial injustice continued to sweep the country and threaten his re-election chances.
Many statues and monuments that pay homage to the rebel Confederacy from the nation’s Civil War era and are seen as tributes to those who perpetuated slavery have been targeted by demonstrating crowds in recent weeks.
Calls for the removal of these monuments, which came on the back of massive Black Lives Matter protests earlier this month and subsequent efforts by some local governments to reform their police forces, were sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in police custody.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the number of National Guard troops would be in the low hundreds.
One of the officials said a request had been received for National Guard assistance from the Interior Department, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy had agreed to it earlier this week.
The official said no troops had been sent to the streets yet but were available if requested.
The National Guard in Washington D.C. is the only one in the country that reports to Trump, with the authority delegated to the Army secretary.
Late on Monday, protesters tried to topple a statue of former President Andrew Jackson facing the White House.
Jackson served two terms in the White House, from 1829 to 1837, espousing a populist political style that has sometimes been compared with that of Trump.
Native American activists have long criticized Jackson, a Democrat, for signing the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which led to thousands of Native Americans being driven from their lands by the U.S. government.
Earlier this month, about 1,200 D.C. National Guard troops and 3,900 from other states were sent to the capital to back law enforcement during demonstrations.
Unarmed D.C. National Guard to help protect monuments if needed, officials say
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