President Trump used much of his speech in Arizona Tuesday evening to deride his liberal opponents and criticize their rhetoric amid weeks of protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Speaking at a “Students for Trump” event inside a church in Phoenix, Trump railed against the “oppressive left-wing ideology” and criticized the calls to remove statues of and monuments to controversial historical figures.
"The radical left hates our history, hates our values,” Trump said. “This is not the behavior of a peaceful movement. It is the behavior of a totalitarian movement.”
Trump added: “If you give power to people that topple monuments…than nothing is safe.”
While groups for years have been calling for the removal of monuments to the Confederacy and other historical figures who espoused racist or xenophobic ideas, the movement to tear them down has gained new impetus following the death last month of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody and the protests that followed.
Trump on Monday already vowed to sign an executive order to protect public statues and monuments from being damaged or destroyed, and on Tuesday morning he said anyone caught vandalizing monuments or any other federal property can be subject to arrest and face up to 10 years in prison.
The president’s comment followed an attempt to take down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square near the White House Monday night, a second incident targeting the nearby St. John’s Church, and prior vandalism of the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial.
The initial statues under fire were those of Confederate soldiers and generals largely in the South, but the anger has spread to monuments beyond that historical period.
On Thursday, demonstrators in Portland, Ore., toppled a statue of President George Washington. Friday, protesters in San Francisco defaced and toppled the statue of former President Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army during the Civil War.
Andrew Jackson, who has faced ire in the present day for his severe treatment of Native Americans, was the latest historical figure targeted by protesters demanding monuments and memorials to those with racist pasts be taken down. Reuters reported that while protesters failed to take down the Jackson statue, it was defaced Monday night with “killer scum” written on the pedestal.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.