WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Protesters across the country continue to target statues of Confederate leaders and other figures viewed as symbols of racism amid demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.
While President Trump has vowed to crack down on attacks against these controversial monuments, Congress continues to debate their fate.
“They made our cities look like a scene out of Mad Max,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA.
Kennedy asked Attorney General Bill Barr Friday to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law protesters who deface or dismantle public monuments.
“I don’t think the people participating in these riots are looking for middle ground,” Kennedy said. “My middle ground with them is stop it and if you don’t stop it, we’re going to put you in jail. And when you get out of jail, we’re going to make you pay for the damage you did.”
President Trump has asked the U.S. Marshals Service to step in and threatened an executive order to reinforce existing laws that punish vandalism after demonstrators tried to remove a statue of Andrew Jackson that sits across from the White House.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR, has also called on Barr to bring charges against “mob vigilantes” under the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation Act, which makes it a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years to deface or dismantle a statue commemorating someone’s military service on federal property.
“They’re bad people,” Trump said. “They don’t love our country.”
“He seems to be the only person left who doesn’t get it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
Pelosi has called for the removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol grounds. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, tried to pass legislation to make that happen.
“They are painful, insulting, difficult injury being compounded to so many American citizens,” Booker said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, said he supports the review and potential swap of monuments but opposes the removal of ones like Jackson.
“We should not try to erase our history,” Alexander said. “We should not try to pretend it doesn’t exist.”