The protest organisers called the event the “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage” in response to Monday’s federal holiday, Columbus Day, which is named after the 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, according to CBS News.
Activists who have been campaigning for the removal of monuments to Columbus across the US over the last few months argue that the Italian explorer mistreated indigenous people upon his arrival to the Americas.
At around 9pm on Sunday, protesters in Portland, Oregon, toppled the statue of Roosevelt, titled Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Rider, before throwing red paint on the monument and using a blowtorch on its base.
The Associated Press reported that Roosevelt – president from 1901 to 1909 – expressed hostility towards Native Americans, and once said: “I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are.”
Eight minutes later rhe protesters then pulled down a statue of Lincoln.
They spray painted “Dakota 38” on the base of Lincoln’s statue, in reference to the 38 Native American men the former US president approved to be hanged after they were involved in a conflict with white settlers.
Over the last few months there has been a growing conversation in the US about the place of symbols of the Confederacy and perpetrators of racial injustice, following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.
Numerous monuments to Confederate officials and soldiers have been toppled across the US, as have statues commemorating Columbus.
Black Lives Matter protests have also taken place in every state across the US, while Portland residents held demonstrations for more than 100 days this summer following Floyd’s death.
On Monday morning, Mr Trump captioned video footage of the protests, without any evidence: “These are Biden fools. ANTIFA RADICALS. Get them FBI, and get them now!”
These are Biden fools. ANTIFA RADICALS. Get them FBI, and get them now! https://t.co/RI9fH6sC1g
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2020
Mr Trump, other high profile Republicans and Fox News hosts have criticised protests over the last few months, highlighting incidents of violence and vandalism at demonstrations across the country.
However, in late September, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) analysed more than 7,750 Black Lives Matter protests across the US, and found that 93 per cent of the demonstrations were peaceful.
Despite the toppling of statues and vandalism being counted as part of the project’s report, the analysis only found 220 instances of violent protests between May and September.
President Trump has also repeatedly claimed that Antifa, an umbrella term for various anti-fascist groups, is behind violence at various protests in Portland. However, federal prosecutors have not linked any demonstration arrests for federal crimes to the loosely organised group.
After the protesters toppled the statues on Sunday, the group smashed windows of the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland State University Campus Public Safety office.
The police later declared the event a riot and said that anyone involved in “criminal behaviour, including vandalism” would be arrested. So far no arrests have been announced.