GETTYSBURG — State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) was joined by fellow lawmakers in Gettysburg Thursday to unveil legislation protecting Pennsylvania monuments from vandalism and desecration.
Standing near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial at the Gettysburg Battlefield, Mastriano and Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) discussed Senate Bill 1321, which is before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“In America, citizens have the right to peacefully advocate for their beliefs. But, in no society should the routine desecration of historic monuments, memorials, markers and statues become acceptable,” Mastriano said. “With this legislation, Pennsylvanians are standing up to the masked cowards who, often under the cover of darkness, seek to erase our history and impose their beliefs on the majority.”
In 2020 alone, extremists have desecrated a monument to World War I veterans in Pittsburgh, defaced a statue of Philadelphia abolitionist Matthias Baldwin and vandalized the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution. Groups have also vandalized memorials to George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant, the leader of the Union Army during the Civil War.
Senate Bill 1321 will:
- Withhold state funding from municipalities and local governments that refuse to uphold laws protecting public monuments, memorials and statues from destruction or vandalism;
- Require the state Attorney General to prosecute cases of monument vandalism when a district attorney refuses to prosecute; and
- Strengthen penalties and require restitution for vandalizing monuments in Pennsylvania.
The grading of the offense ranges from a first-degree misdemeanor when property damage is between $200 and $2,000 up to first-degree felony when property damage is $500,000 or more.
“We have a responsibility as public officials to ensure that these monuments are not desecrated and individuals that aim to destroy them are prosecuted,” said Ward, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Other prime sponsors of the measure include Sen. Dave Argall (R-29), chair of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, and Sen. Dave Arnold (R-48), a former prosecutor.
“I am proud to be a sponsor of this legislation and to support Senator Mastriano in this important cause,” said Argall. “Honoring our heritage should be a given in our modern society, yet we now see monuments ruined across our country. This important bill is key to safeguarding Pennsylvania’s history.”
“History is complicated, but it’s part of our heritage as Americans, and every citizen shares that heritage,” Mastriano said. “We can’t let small groups of political extremists tear apart our history and, as a result, our unity. Today, we stand up and say, ‘No more.’”