A statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee is seen in Richmond, Va., on June 20. It is one of dozens of monuments nationwide that have been targeted by demonstrators in recent weeks. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
July 1 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday it plans to deploy a newly established task force to protect federal statues and other monuments over the Fourth of July weekend.
Acting Secretary Chad Wolf established the Protecting American Communities Task Force to protect monuments after many have been toppled in recent weeks because of their links to slavery, racism or colonialism.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to protect federal monuments and direct the department to provide personnel to assist with the effort.
"DHS is answering the president's call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks," Wolf said. "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."
Wolf said his department will monitor potential civil unrest or destruction and deploy resources to protect federal monuments, and work with the Interior and Justice departments to share intelligence.
"As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property," he said.
"While the department respects every American's right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated."
The effort comes amid widespread Black Lives Matter protests worldwide inspired by the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Some demonstrators have brought down -- or attempted to bring down -- statues honoring historic figures who have owned slaves or been involved in the Confederacy or efforts to forcefully relocate Native Americans, such as President Andrew Jackson, Christopher Columbus and Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee.
In some places, leaders have approved the official removal of such statues, including a Confederate monument in Denton, Texas, a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and a statue of George Preston Marshall, founder of the NFL's Washington Redskins.
The Surrogate's Court building exterior remains vandalized while Occupy City Hall protests continue outside City Hall in New York City on June 30. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo