DHS Launches Task Force to Protect U.S. Monuments, Memorials and Statues

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a task force aimed at protecting monuments, memorials and statues across the country as protesters seek to see structures honoring racist figures destroyed.

DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced the establishment of the "DHS Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT)" on Wednesday.

The DHS chief said the special task force had been launched to help enforce an executive order issued by President Donald Trump on June 26, which called for historic monuments and statues in the U.S. to be protected.

"DHS is answering the president's call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks," Wolf said in a statement.

"We won't stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities."

Trump's executive order, titled "Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity," came after weeks of unrest following the death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who was killed when a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest on May 25 over a $20 note.

In the wake of Floyd's death, monuments, statues and other landmarks honoring Confederate generals and other figures seen as racist have been torn down or defaced.

Meanwhile, officials across all levels of government have also sought to see such figures removed, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren working to see the names of Confederate figures removed from U.S. military bases in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump has threatened to veto if it reaches his desk with the inclusion of the amendment.

In its efforts to prevent such landmarks from being destroyed, the DHS has said it will be conducting ongoing assessments of "potential civil unrest or destruction" and allocating resources to protecting people and property.

It is unclear what the DHS's assessments will entail. However, the department said its Office of Operations Coordination will be partnering closely with the Departments of Justice and Interior "to establish information and intelligence sharing." Newsweek has contacted the DHS, as well as the Departments of Justice of Interior for more information.

The DHS also said the effort "may involve potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of critical locations."

In a statement, Wolf suggested that there are concerns around increased activity around the upcoming July 4th holiday.

"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," Wolf said. "While the Department respects every American's right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated."

Down With Jackson
Washington, D.C. Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, near the White House, on June 22. The Associated Press reported that President Trump threatened protesters with 10 years in jail if caught trying to topple the statue. Drew Angerer/Getty