Protesters in Washington, D.C., topple and set ablaze Confederate statue

Phil McCausland

Protesters in Washington, D.C., toppled and set ablaze a statue of a Confederate general Friday night.

Demonstrators tore down the statue of Confederate Gen. Albert Pike by wrapping two ropes around it and pulling it to the ground. Dozens of people cheered and filmed the statue's crash, according to video taken by NBC Washington.

The statue was then apparently doused with lighter fluid and lit on fire.

The group who tore it down were not part of earlier Juneteenth celebrations, the local station reported.

Police outside the nearby Metropolitan Police Department headquarters avoided a confrontation with protesters and watched the statue burn for several minutes before approximately a dozen officers put the small blaze out with fire extinguishers, NBC Washington reported.

Image: People take part in events to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, in Washington (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

President Donald Trump criticized the police on Twitter.

"The D.C. Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested," Trump wrote, tagging the city's mayor, Muriel Bowser, a Democrat whom he has criticized numerous times recently. "A disgrace to our Country!"

Some demonstrators read his tweet aloud on a bullhorn and cheered next to the fallen statue, The Associated Press reported.

After the statue fell, most protesters returned peacefully to Lafayette Park near the White House, the AP said.

Image: People take part in events to mark Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, in Washington (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

"The statue in question sits in a federal park and therefore is within the jurisdiction of National Park Service and the United States Park Police," the Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement. "No arrests were made."

The National Park Service and the U.S. Park Police did not immediately respond to phone calls requesting comment.

The statue of Pike was erected in 1901 at the request of the Free Masons. Civil rights activists and government officials in the District have worked for years to have it removed, but the racial tensions that have spilled into the streets in recent weeks after George Floyd died while in police custody have brought a new focus to Confederate statues across the country.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's nonvoting congressional delegate, introduced legislation in 2017 to remove the statue, and reintroduced it last year, according to NBC Washington.

"Ever since 1992, members of the DC Council have been calling on the federal gov’t to remove the statue of Confederate Albert Pike (a federal memorial on federal land)," Washington D.C.'s city council said on Twitter. "We unanimously renewed our call to Congress to remove it in 2017."