Jason Charter is the activist accused by federal authorities of leading June attacks on statues of Confederate General Albert Pike and former President Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C.
Charter identifies as part of Antifa, and he posted a photo on Twitter depicting the statues’ destruction, calling it a “service to this nation, not a crime. He’s accused of helping to topple the Pike statue near Indiana Avenue and lighting it aflame on June 20, then on June 22 leading a group of protesters trying to take down the Jackson statue. He insists he is not guilty.
Here’s what you need to know about Jason Charter and the federal charges he’s facing:
1. The Statues Came Under Attack on June 20 and 22 Amid Nationwide Protests Against Racism & Police Brutality
United States Park Police found the Pike statue already toppled around 12:15 a.m. on June 20, according to a statement of facts filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Protesters had surrounded it — D.C.’s only outdoor monument to the Confederacy — that night, before wrapping it in ropes and pulling it down, local NBC 4 reported.
On June 22, about 200 protesters came for the Jackson statue in Lafayette Park and used ropes, chains and a “yellow strap” in an unsuccessful attempt to pull it down. Protesters linked arms around the statue to try and keep police away, FBI Special Agent Johnathon Hoyt wrote in court documents. NBC reported that police used pepper spray on the protesters.
2. Federal Prosecutors Allege Video Shows Charter at Both Incidents & Lighting a Cigarette With the Flames on the Pike Statue; Charter Insists He Is Not Guilty
Prosecutors reviewed open-source video of the Pike statue incident and said they were able to identify Charter, wearing all black, carrying a walking cane and a backpack with a bike helmet hanging from it. At some points in available video, they said, his face was exposed, and they saw Charter pouring apparent lighter fluid onto the statue after it was toppled.
At one point, Charter pulls up his face covering and lights a cigarette off the statue, prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors alleged Charter can be seen two days later at the scene of the Jackson statue incident as well, identifying him in part by his walking cane. He directs people in the effort to tear down the statue, they claimed, and affixes ropes to it.
Charter was also identified by a Metropolitan Police lieutenant who had some interactions with him, according to the court document.
He declared his innocence on Twitter on Thursday, adding that the fact President Donald Trump is “tweeting at and prosecuting a crippled 25-year-old activist shows how desperate [he] is to create false narratives.”
Heavy reached out to Charter’s attorney, Andrew O. Clarke, but he declined to comment on Friday.
3. Charter Is a Political Activist, Who Proudly Identifies With the Antifascist Movement & Is a Regular At Protests
— Jason Charter (@JasonRCharter) June 30, 2020
On his Facebook and Twitter pages, Charter identifies himself as a political activist and proud supporter of the antifascist movement. According to his Facebook page, his hometown was Syosset, New York, but he now lives in D.C. Online public records did not indicate any past arrest records.
In one of his Facebook photos, he uses the hashtag #WeAreAntifascist. He has also posted that all police officers are “oppressors”
I find it hilarious people think that my dark eyes are from drugs and not from the countless hours I dedicate to work, activism, my love life, and my hobbies.
— Jason Charter (@JasonRCharter) July 2, 2020
On Thursday, likely in response to a flood of threatening Tweets from right-wing users pleased by his arrest, he tweeted, “I find it hilarious people think that my dark eyes are from drugs and not from the countless hours I dedicate to work, activism, my love life and my hobbies.”
On June 20, he posted a photo to Facebook showing him at an unidentified protest wearing a gas mask, standing in front of a police officer with a riot shield.
Charter was also at a June 26 protest at the Emancipation Memorial in D.C., where he confronted alt-right media personality and right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec and called him a Nazi, according to multiple reports.
4. The Jackson & Pike Statues Were 2 of Many Under Fire Throughout the Country for Their Roots in the Confederacy & Outdated Racist Attitudes
The New York Museum of Natural History announced last month that they would remove a controversial statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt from the front of the museum because of the way it depicts Native and African figures as subservient to Roosevelt.
The statue of Albert Pike in D.C. has faced calls for removal for years, not only for his service to the Confederacy, but for his rumored involvement in the formation of the Ku Klux Klan, the Washington Post reported. Organized protests were a weekly occurrence in 1992 and, at one point, protesters climbed the statue and draped white sheets over it, connecting Pike to the Klan.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was ensnared in the recent statue controversies because of his role in the brutal American Indian Removal Act in 1830. Jackson has become widely known as an ethnic cleanser, Vox reported.
5. Charter Could Face Up To 10 Years in Prison Under Federal Law, if Convicted
On June 24, President Trump signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice to “prioritize” going after people who deface federal monuments.
The order did not introduce any new penalties, but included a lot of language singling out “anarchists and left-wing extremists,” as well as “Marxism” and “fringe ideology.” However, current federal law does allow for up to 10 years in prison for anyone convicted of destroying federal property.
An outside White House adviser told CNN that the executive order was a “symbolic step” toward advancing the president’s “law and order” message.
Still, Charter has been charged with “depredation” of public property, according to the charging document, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
“Lawlessness has been allowed to prevail, we’re not going to let it prevail any longer,” Trump said, according to ABC News. “They go to prison for ten years if they hurt our monuments or our statues.”
Charter is represented by attorney Andrew O. Clarke, according to court records. Clarke had no comment when reached by Heavy on Charter’s case Friday. Instead, he said, “Focus on the real story. Breonna Taylor’s killer Brett Hankison is still on the loose!”