Federal law enforcement officials on Thursday arrested a man in Washington they call a “ringleader” in the recent attempt to destroy the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square near the White House.
Law enforcement sources tell Fox News that Jason Charter was arrested at his residence Thursday morning, without incident, and charged with destruction of federal property. He was arrested by the FBI and U.S. Park Police as part of a joint task force.
These sources add that Charter has connections to Antifa and was in a leadership role on the night of June 22 when a large group of protesters tried to pull down the statue. “They were very organized,” a federal law enforcement official said. “Charter was on top of the statue and directing people ... they had acid, chisels, straps and a human chain preventing police from getting to the statue.”
The FBI's criminal complaint against Charter attaches screengrabs of local news videos and accuses him of also being involved in the destruction of the Albert Pike Historical Statue in Washington this month.
Citing local news video, the FBI alleges that Charter is seen “standing over the toppled Pike Statue, pouring an unknown liquid onto the statue.”
The complaint said: “He is then observed waving others away from the statue, and squatting down behind the statue where his hands are not visible. Seconds later, the statue catches fire. Charter is seen standing over the flames as it burns.” As for the events at Lafayette Park, the complaint says, “At the Jackson Statue incident, Charter is additionally seen wearing a red set of ski goggles and a yellow ventilator mask. Charter’s face is clearly visible at different times during each incident.”
The complaint also cites a tweet from a Twitter account with the name Jason Charter that says, "Tearing down statues of traitors to the nation is a service to this nation not a crime."
The complaint also says Charter participated in a June 26 protest at Lincoln Park in Washington – where demonstrators were calling for the removal of a statue of Abraham Lincoln -- and is “alleged to have assaulted” an individual who later filed an assault report with the police.
Charter is expected to make an appearance -- likely virtual -- in U.S. District Court in Washington on Thursday, Fox News is told.
Protesters say the Andrew Jackson statue is offensive because he was a slave owner and because of his treatment of Native Americans. Another man, Graham Lloyd, 37, turned himself in for similar charges in Portland, Maine, and had an initial appearance in federal court there on Wednesday afternoon. Lloyd is also accused of destruction of federal property for his role in the attempt to take down the Jackson statue.
A magistrate judge in Maine has transferred Lloyd’s case to federal court in Washington D.C.
These arrests come in the wake of the June 24 executive order signed by President Trump intended to protect monuments and statues.
Trump tweeted, “I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials and Statues- and combating recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country.” READ MORE