Biden continues to dismantle Trump’s legacy, reverses protections for US monuments

President Joe Biden continued dismantling his predecessor’s legacy on Friday by signing three executive orders reversing special protections for U.S. monuments and calling for a “Garden of Heroes.”

In June 2020, as rioters and protestors around the country and in Washington, D.C., were destroying, or threatening to destroy, national monuments, then-President Donald Trump issued an executive order instructing the Justice Department “to prosecute to the fullest extent” anyone who “destroys, damages, vandalizes, or desecrates a monument, memorial, or statue.”

During his campaign last year, Trump often spoke of the order, claiming that it ended assaults on monuments by empowering federal law enforcement to utilize existing laws calling for 10 years in prison.

“When I signed the executive order outlining 10-year prison sentences, as an example, for destroying monuments and statues, it immediately stopped,” Trump said during an August press conference.

“That was three months ago or so. I signed an order, and it said, ‘Ten years in prison.’ Ten years if you knock down a statue. It immediately stopped. I mean, to the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen it happening for about that time. They were going to have a big march on Washington. They canceled that march. They said 10 years is too long,” he added.

Trump signed that order less than a week after rioters attempted to tear down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson, dedicated in 1853, that was located across from the White House.

In July 2020, Trump signed another order calling for the creation of a National Garden of American Heroes, which he said “should be located on a site of natural beauty that enables visitors to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and be inspired to learn about great figures of America’s history.”

“Americans must never lose sight of this miraculous story,” Trump said at the time during an Independence Day speech at the National Monument near Rapid City, S.D.

“So today under the authority vested in me as president of the United States, I am announcing the creation of a new monument to the giants of our past. I am signing an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live,” he added.

He also said that the garden was to feature Americans noted for their scientific, military, artistic, and social achievements. In a follow-on order, Trump called for honoring, among other notable Americans, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, chef and TV personality Julia Child, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and long-time host of “Jeopardy!”, Alex Trebek. Other notables that were to have been added to the garden included George Washington, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Dolley Madison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Ronald Reagan, George Patton, Antonin Scalia, Clara Barton, and Martin Luther King Jr.,

But in a Friday afternoon email, the White House announced all of those orders have been revoked.

Another order Biden signed revoked a May 2020 order Trump signed that directed federal agencies to review Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides protections to social media companies, shielding them from liability for what others have posted on their platforms. Trump signed the order in response to reports that major social media companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were behaving like publishers by censoring or throttling certain content, including flagging the then-president’s posts as ‘false.’

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Jon Dougherty

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