A federal court in Washington, D.C., revealed criminal complaint charges against four men with destruction of federal property on Saturday. Videos of the men attacking the Andrew Jackson statue in D.C.’s Lafayette Square surfaced, leading to the investigation.
“The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will not stand idly by and allow our national monuments to be vandalized and destroyed,” said acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin. “This Office remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the sacred First Amendment right of individuals to peacefully protest, but these charges should serve as a warning to those who choose to desecrate the statues and monuments that adorn our nation’s capital: Your violent behavior and criminal conduct will not be tolerated.”
The videos show the men using various destructive methods such as “attempting to pry the statue off its base with a wooden board and trying to pull the statue down with the aid of a yellow strap.” One of the suspects is depicted “as he breaks off and destroys the wheels of cannons located at the base of the statue” and gives a hammer to another person.
Sherwin, along with help from the FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division and the United States Park Police, brought the charges against Lee Michael Cantrell, 47, of Virginia; Connor Matthew Judd, 20, of Washington, D.C.; Ryan Lane, 37, of Maryland; and Graham Lloyd, 37, of Maine in a joint investigation.
“The FBI respects the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights, but we will not allow opportunists to hijack peaceful protests to incite violence and destruction of property,” said James A. Dawson, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division. “We will continue to work with our partners to enforce federal laws prohibiting damage to government facilities and property.”
The United States Park Police also released a statement saying that “deplorable acts of violence and destruction of property” will not be tolerated.
“Members of the United States Park Police are working tirelessly to provide quality law enforcement, safeguard lives, protect our national treasures and symbols of democracy, and preserve the natural and cultural resources entrusted to its service,” said Gregory T. Monahan, acting chief of the U.S. Park Police. “We are committed to ensuring that citizens are able to freely exercise their constitutional rights in a safe and peaceful manner. The deplorable acts of violence and destruction of property are unacceptable and will continue to be pursued through ongoing collaborative investigations and enforcement efforts.”
These charges come just days after U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice would pursue at least 500 investigations into the destruction caused by riots.
“We’ve had scores of indictments so far for such things as arson, destruction of federal property,” Barr said. “We have right now about 500 investigations underway, so it’s picking up pace. We are committed to holding accountable the people who engaged in this.”