Protesters pulled down statues of former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday night, in a declaration of “rage” over the Columbus Day federal holiday.
On Monday morning, Donald Trump seized on video of the protests to seek to score points in his re-election fight against Joe Biden.
“These are Biden fools,” the president wrote. “ANTIFA RADICALS. Get them FBI, and get them now!”
Protest organizers dubbed the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage”, in response to Monday’s federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a polarizing figure who Native American advocates say spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations.
The group threw chains around Roosevelt’s statue, officially titled Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider. They threw red paint on the monument and began using a blowtorch on the statue’s base, news outlets reported.
The crowd pulled down the statue just before 9pm. The group turned their attention to Lincoln’s statue, pulling it down about eight minutes later.
Historians have said Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans, once saying: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are.”
Protesters spray-painted “Dakota 38” on the base of Lincoln’s statue, referencing the 38 Dakota men Lincoln approved to have hanged after the men were involved in a violent conflict with white settlers in Minnesota.
Lincoln, the 16th president, also led the union to victory in the civil war, ending slavery in the US.
After toppling the statues, the crowd began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society and later moved onto the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office.
Police declared the event a riot and ordered the group to disperse. Police said anyone involved in “criminal behavior, including vandalism” was subject to arrest. It was unclear if any arrests were made.
The monuments are the latest statues to come down in a wave of removed monuments and protests sparked by the 25 May killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by police officers in Minneapolis.
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