The Secret Service says it "misdirected" members of the White House press corps to immediately leave the White House grounds on Monday amid a demonstration in Lafayette Square. Two of the four journalists were from CNN, which describes the move as "highly unusual" since the press corps is typically locked down inside the White House complex during security situations. In this case, the journalists were told to immediately exit via the South side of the complex, an unusual path for the press. Protesters had gathered in an attempt to topple a statue of former President Andrew Jackson in the middle of Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. They were seen trying to rip the statue from its pedestal, on which someone had scrawled "killer," but were pushed back by police wielding batons and pepper spray, per the Washington Post.
Early Tuesday, the Secret Service said the journalists were "misdirected" to leave the grounds "in response to the increasingly violent demonstrations" and "were rerouted to exits on the south side of the complex for their own safety," per CNN and USA Today. On St. John's Episcopal Church, across the street from the square, protesters had spray-painted "BHAZ"—the acronym for "Black House Autonomous Zone" and an apparent reference to Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), an occupied protest area of six square blocks. President Trump blasted the "disgraceful vandalism" and tweeted early Tuesday that "I have authorized the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S. with up to 10 years in prison, per the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act, or such other laws that may be pertinent." (Read more White House stories.)