The decision to knock down or remove public statues with historical significance must come from the government or owners of that property and not from a lawless, violent mob, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, asserted Monday night.
In an interview on "Fox News @ Night," Lee said that the effort to tear down history – no matter which way it was written is – "perfectly unacceptable in every way, shape and form."
"These people have a grievance and that's understandable. But, if these statues, if these monuments don't belong to them – which to my knowledge they don't in any case – then they don't have the right to take them down," argued Lee. "Anyone who owns a statue or a monument has the authority to take it down. And, if it belongs to a government, then the decision needs to be made by those government officials."
Lee noted that in a "representative system" like the United States government, those who did not serve the community's needs could be voted out.
"[The] one thing you can't do is surround the monument with a lawless, violent mob and pole vault over it, run under it, and then tear the thing down and deface it. That's lawlessness and it leads to more lawlessness and more violence," he explained. "That's exactly what we don't need in this country."
Last week, the American Museum of Natural History asked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to remove a prominent statue from its front entrance following years of objections that it symbolizes colonial expansion and racial discrimination.
The bronze statue that has stood at the museum’s entrance since 1940, as the New York Times reported, depicts President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback with a Native American man and an African man standing next to the horse.
“The American Museum of Natural History has asked to remove the Theodore Roosevelt statue because it explicitly depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior,” de Blasio announced Sunday in a written statement. “It is the right decision and the right time to remove this problematic statue.”
In addition, President Trump took to Twitter late Monday to announce that “numerous people were arrested” in Washington, D.C., as protesters attempted to tear down a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square Park and – once again – targeted the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“Numerous people arrested in D.C. for the disgraceful vandalism, in Lafayette Park, of the magnificent Statue of Andrew Jackson, in addition to the exterior defacing of St. John’s Church across the street,” Trump tweeted. “10 years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!”
David L. Bernhardt, the secretary of the Interior Department, said he visited Lafayette Square and witnessed the destruction. He said the country “will not bow to anarchists. Law and order will prevail, and justice will be served.”
While the full extent of the damage is not yet clear, the Lincoln Memorial and WWII Memorial have been defaced in earlier protests, and the Jackson statue was also defaced. Reuters reported that “killer scum” was written on the pedestal. Ropes were tied to the statue in an effort to topple it, but the statement said “law enforcement officers ensured that this would not happen.”
"I would certainly hope that any time you have people willfully acting in a lawless fashion in order to destroy public property – especially public property [that] has some historical significance, particularly in our nation's capital – that ought to be concerning to all Americans," Lee reacted. "And, it ought to be concerning to those charged with enforcing our laws," he also pointed out. "That said, [many] us who write the laws [do] not enforce them. That's somebody else's decision. But, it is a dangerous thing to allow things like this to go unnoticed and completely unpunished."
However, Lee told Bream he's not sure there is a "single algorithmic formula" that can help Americans ascertain "in every circumstance" where a name or statue needs to go.
"I know only that it's got to be made by the appropriate person or group of people. If it's government-owned, that needs to be the people who have been elected and duly sworn and chosen to run that government entity," he remarked. "It can't be done on an ad hoc basis by some group wanting to set up a sort of sovereign autonomous zone. That doesn't work."
Lee added that while it is the prerogative of the victor to write history and try to neglect key parts of it if there's "too much of that" it can end up "doing real harm to your system of government."
"Because your system of government is ... informed by [the] past. And, there are some historical figures that, while not perfect, we can learn from. And we don't want to go changing everything all at once," he concluded.
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and Frank Miles contributed to this report.