President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened Washington D.C. protesters with “serious force” after they attempted to topple a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House and declared the area an “autonomous zone.”
“There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” Trump declared in a frantic tweet.
The threat came after tense demonstrations on Monday night where law enforcement intervened, deploying pepper spray and using force to disperse the protest before the statue could be pulled down.
The Washington Post reported that the letters “BHAZ” were spray-painted on the columns of St. John’s Church in the park and on a piece of plywood on H Street, an acronym for “Black House Autonomous Zone.”
The phrase appeared to be taking after the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” in Seattle that was established earlier this month amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Protests have persisted over the last month in response to the death of George Floyd, with demonstrators calling for police reform and action to address racial injustice. The gatherings have evolved in recent days to target statues of Confederate leaders and other controversial historical figures.
The president has staunchly opposed the removal of statues or namesakes honoring Confederate leaders, citing national “heritage.”
There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
Trump and conservative media have painted the protests a bastion of lawlessness and calling for state and local leaders to get tough on demonstrators, while avoiding to address the root cause of the protests: police brutality.