Interior Secretary warns DC protesters: If ‘they want to destroy property … we’ll deal with them severely’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt vowed on “Your World” Thursday that “criminals who engage in the destruction of government property will be prosecuted” after demonstrators in the nation’s capital vowed to demolish the Emancipation Memorial, which depicts Abraham Lincoln standing over a newly freed black man.

“The reality is this is government property and you cannot destroy government property … Bernhardt told host Neil Cavuto, before adding that “we’re not going to tolerate this type of activity. A few days ago, we had some folks that tried something with this [Emancipation Memorial] statue and the suspects were arrested and they will be prosecuted and we will continue to prosecute folks. We will also protect these resources.”

President Trump declared Tuesday morning that anyone caught vandalizing monuments or any other federal property can be subject to arrest and face up to 10 years in prison.

Bernhardt said that demonstrators must go through the proper channels if they want the Emancipation Memorial or other monuments on federal land removed from public display.

“The proper avenue, if someone has a strong view about a memorial or a statue, is [to] petition the United States Congress and have the Congress address the issue. It’s ultimately the people’s property,” Bernhardt said. “And there are means that people can go through to have their concerns raised, elevated, considered and rejected or approved. And we that’s enshrined in the Constitution and people should take advantage of that.

“But if they come and they want to destroy property,” Bernhardt added, “they’re going to deal with us and we’ll deal with them severely. We’ll deal with them with dispatch.”

When Cavuto asked Bernhardt what he meant by “with dispatch,” the secretary answered, “Our law enforcement are in these locations. I’ve asked for a supplement of National Guard to be eyes and ears on the ground and be there. And we we want to ensure that these facilities are protected.

“Our law enforcement are the most highly trained professionals in in government, in terms of these types of occasions. And what you saw earlier this week was a coordinated effort by the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division, law enforcement from D.C. and the U.S. Park Police. And what you’ll see is they’ll move promptly with these matters and they’ll … move folks away with a great … speed.”

*story by Fox News