Trump vows jail for 'anarchists' toppling monuments, warns protesters trying to establish 'Black House Autonomous Zone'
Twitter slapped a warning label on the president's tweet.
President Donald Trump has warned protesters who tried to topple a statue of President Andrew Jackson and build a "Black House Autonomous Zone" near the White House that there will be "serious" consequences.
After weeks of railing against city officials in Seattle for allowing protesters to make an "autonomous zone" there, Trump tweeted Tuesday morning "there will never be" one in the nation's capital as long as he's president and vowed that any more attempts "will be met with serious force!"
Twitter later slapped a warning label on Trump's tweet, reading: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible," hiding the president's text unless a user clicks "view."
As he departed for Arizona Tuesday, Trump thanked police for stopping protesters Monday night -- whom he called "vandals, hoodlums, anarchists and agitators" -- from succeeding.
"Last night we stopped an attack on a great monument of Andrew Jackson and Lafayette Park," Trump told reporters, adding that "numerous people" are already in jail and more are going "today."
In addition to the attempts to tear down the Jackson statue, protesters tried to build a "Black House Autonomous Zone" at the end of the nearby street now called "Black Lives Matter Plaza" -- both a short distance from the White House front door.
"BHAZ" was seen spray-painted on the columns of St. John's Episcopal Church, where protesters had set up tents, and on pieces of plywood protesters placed around the area.
In an attempt to thwart another effort Tuesday night, police have so far prevented protesters from getting close to the end of Black Lives Matter Plaza and Lafayette Park.
As he spoke on the South Lawn Tuesday morning, Trump doubled down on an earlier tweet threatening to prosecute protesters.
"We are looking at long term jail sentences for these vandals, hoodlums, anarchists and agitators. Some people don't like that language, but that's what they are: Bad people. They don't love our country, and they're not taking down our monuments," he said. "I just want that to be clear."
Trump had tweeted he'd already "authorized" the federal government to "arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S."
He wrote the offense would be punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
They chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Andrew Jackson's got to go," as they threw ropes around the bronze statue of the seventh president, depicted atop a horse in Lafayette Square.
Police eventually intervened Monday and used chemical irritants to disperse the crowd.
Daylight Tuesday showed the base had been spray-painted with the word "killer."
Trump has said Jackson, who led the systematic removal of native Americans two centuries ago, is a personal hero.
He's placed a small replica of the Jackson statue that sits in Lafayette Park behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
He had a portrait of Jackson hung next to the desk.
And early in his administration he placed a wreath at Jackson's tomb in Nashville.
Though the president said "numerous" arrests were made, two arrests were made by U.S. Park Police, according to a Department on Interior spokesperson. One officer sustained an upper-body injury after being struck by an unknown weapon. He was transported to a local hospital and later released.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Seattle leadership for its the autonomous zone -- saying he could clear out protesters there in minutes.
It wasn't immediately clear what Trump or law enforcement might do to stop a repeat of Monday night, but during the day Tuesday protest signs had been removed and police appeared to have set up had set up a larger perimeter.
Law enforcement on June 1 used chemical irritants and smoke canisters to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park, just north of the White House, immediately before the president briefly walked to the church to pose with a Bible in front of it and took photographs with his aides.
Trump's rhetoric against protesters has ramped up alongside his defense for statues of historical figures with ties to racism or slavery, as protesters across the country have torn down monuments in recent weeks.
He added Tuesday that if states can't handle protesters, the federal government will, and to expect an executive order to discipline those tearing down statues "shortly."
"I will have an executive order very shortly. And all it's really going to do is reinforce what's already there, but in a more uniform way," Trump said. "If the state governments, as you see them, all over, Seattle. They're very weak. And in Minnesota, they might need help. If they need help, the federal government is willing to help them."
"If these hoodlums come around, and if the states can't handle it, we are ready, willing and able to help as we did in Minnesota," he said, referring to when the National Guard was sent in after George Floyd's death.
Trump earlier cited the Veterans Memorial Preservation or "such other laws that may be pertinent" to enforce the arrests.
It was passed in 2003, in the wake of instances of vandalism at military cemeteries, especially a rash of vandalism at military cemeteries in Hawaii.
One section of the act states that a person who willfully injures or destroys memorials "commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States" -- or attempts to do so -- shall be fined and/or imprisoned no more than 10 years.
But Congress authorizes prosecutions for crimes under federal law, not the president.
It's not the first time Trump has expressed disdain at Seattle's autonomous zone in its Capitol Hill neighborhood -- dubbed the "CHAZ" -- a version of which he can now find outside his front door.
At his Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he said it would take him "less than an hour" to clear the zone if Democratic Gov. Jay Inlsee of Washington state called him. Trump said he would "love to do it."
"Now these are anarchists, these are not protestors," Trump said, speaking of Seattle. "Could you imagine if people just even slightly to the right tried to take over Seattle? They'd have machine guns out to get them, but these people can take over the city, look at what they've done to businesspeople that have spent years and years building their business, and now they're wiped out. Take it away. Governor Inslee ought to get his act together, get in there."
He also defended statues of Confederate and other leaders tied to racism in his remarks, as statue across the country of such figures come down.
"The unhinged left wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments," Trump said Saturday. "They want to demolish our heritage so they can impose their new oppressive regime in its place."
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a conservative Republican, agreed with President Trump that charges should be brought against protesters under the act, as he did nearly a month ago agreeing with the president when he threatened to invoke Insurrection Act.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday night as the events unfolded, Cotton called on the Justice Department to bring charges against "mob vigilantes" taking down statues: "We cannot tolerate mob rule and we cannot allow it to go unpunished."
ABC News' Katherine Faulders, Luke Barr, Ben Gittleson, Ella Torres and Morgan Winsor contributed to this story.
ABC News Live
24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events