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Trump sends stern warning to protestors in US capital

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Police officers guard the statue of former US President Andrew Jackson just outside the White House after protesters tried to topple it. (AFP Photo/Eric BARADAT)

President Donald Trump delivered a strong warning Tuesday to protestors in Washington, threatening “serious force” if they tried to create a Seattle-like autonomous zone in the US capital.

A day after police used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators who tried to topple a statue of a former president just outside the White House, Trump also threatened stiff prison sentences against “anarchists” who damage national monuments.

“I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

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“This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!” he wrote.

“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 was referring to the police-free district created by protesters in Seattle, in Washington state, two weeks ago, which has sparked outrage among conservatives.

On Saturday, police were denied access to Seattle’s six-block “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” after a person was shot dead, and on Monday the west coast city’s mayor announced that they planned to take control back of the area.

In the US capital of Washington late Monday, protestors attempted to pull down a monumental statue of Andrew Jackson, who was president from 1829 to 1837, astride a rearing horse.

The statue stands just outside the White House, and was targeted for Jackson’s history as a slave owner and his brutal policies toward Native Americans.

Beginning in 1830 he forced the relocation of tens of thousands of native Americans from the southeast across the country on what was called the Trail of Tears.

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US Park Police forced the protesters away using batons and pepper spray, but only after the monument was heavily spray-painted with epithets and slogans.

The letters “BHAZ,” for Black House Autonomous Zone were painted on St. John’s Episcopal Church also near the White House.

Early Tuesday police had blocked off the streets near the White House as Trump left by helicopter on a trip to Arizona for a speech to supporters.

“We are looking at long term jail sentences” for those who damage federal monuments, Trump said.

“These are not protestors by the way. These are anarchists and other things,” he said.

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