On a day meant for unity and celebration, President Donald Trump vowed to “safeguard our values” from enemies within – leftists, looters, agitators, he stated – in a Fourth of July speech full of all the grievances and combativeness of his political rallies.
Trump watched paratroopers float to the floor in a tribute to America, greeted his viewers of front-line medical employees and others central in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and opened up on those that “slander” him and disrespect the nation’s previous.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he stated. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.
“And we’ll defend, shield and protect (the) American lifestyle, which started in 1492 when Columbus found America.”
He did not mention the dead from the pandemic. Nearly 130,000 are known to have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.
Even as officials across the country pleaded with Americans to curb their enthusiasm for large Fourth of July crowds, Trump enticed the masses with a “particular night” of tribute and fireworks staged with new U.S. coronavirus infections on the rise.
But the crowds wandering the National Mall for the night’s air show and fireworks were strikingly thinner than the gathering for last year’s jammed celebration on the Mall.
Many who showed up wore masks, unlike those seated close together for Trump’s South Lawn event, and distancing was easy to do for those scattered across the sprawling space.
Trump did not hesitate to use the country’s birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him.
Carrying on a theme he pounded on a day earlier against the backdrop of the Mount Rushmore monuments, he went after those who have torn down statues or think some of them, particularly those of Confederate figures, should be removed. Support has been growing among Republicans to remove Confederate memorials.
“Our previous just isn’t a burden to be solid away,” Trump said.
Outside the event but as close to it as they could get, Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, gathered with two friends, one of them a nurse from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and none in a mask.
“POTUS stated it will go away,” Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym for president of the United States. “Masks, I feel, are like a hoax.” But she said she wore one inside the Trump International Hotel, where she stayed.
By the World War II Memorial, the National Park Service handed out packets of five white cloth masks to all who wanted them. People were not required to wear them.
Another nurse, Zippy Watt from Riverside, California, came to see the air show and fireworks with her husband and their two daughters, one of whom lives in Washington. They wore matching American flag face masks even when seated together on a park bench.
“We selected to put on a masks to guard ourselves and others,” Watt said. She said her family was divided on Trump but she is “extra of a Trump supporter. Being from southern California I see socialist tendencies. I’m bored with paying taxes so others can keep house.”
Pat Lee made the trip from north of Philadelphia after seeing last year’s Mall celebration on TV.
She said the protests over racial injustice that unfolded near her were so threatening that people in her suburban neighborhood took turns staying up all night and those who didn’t own guns stationed bats and shovels in their garages. Her friend from Pennsylvania, who didn’t want to be identified, said she spent more than three hours in line to buy a gun.
“I need individuals to cease calling us racists,” Lee said. “We’re not racists. Just since you love your nation, love the individuals in your nation, would not make you a racist.”
Trump’s guests on the South Lawn were doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers and military members as well as officials from the administration, said Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary. He said the event was a tribute to the “large braveness and spirit” of front-line workers and the public in the pandemic.
In many parts of the country, authorities discouraged mass gatherings for the holiday after days that have seen COVID-19 cases grow at a rate not experienced even during the deadliest phase of the pandemic in the spring.
In New York, once the epicenter, people were urged to avoid crowds and Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest happened at an undisclosed location without spectators on hand, in advance of the evening’s televised fireworks spectacular over the Empire State Building.
In Philadelphia, mask- and glove-wearing descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence participated in a virtual tapping of the famed Liberty Bell on Independence Mall and people were asked to join from afar by clinking glasses, tapping pots or ringing bells.
Yet Trump continued to crave big crowds when it came to his events.
He opened the holiday weekend by traveling to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a fireworks display Friday night near the mountain carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In stark words, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a “cruel marketing campaign to wipe out our historical past.”
Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, the shadow of the coronavirus loomed closer to him. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for the virus, Trump’s campaign said late Friday. Guilfoyle tweeted Saturday that she was looking forward to “a speedy restoration.”
In a presidential message Saturday morning on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that “over the previous months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been examined by many challenges.”
His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. “by no means lived up” to its founding principle that “all males are created equal,” but today “now we have an opportunity to tear the roots of systemic racism out of this nation.?
Trump’s endorsement of massive gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore got here as many communities determined to scrap fireworks, parades and different vacation traditions in hopes of avoiding but extra surges in an infection.
Confirmed instances have been climbing in 40 states, and the U.S. set one other document Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, in keeping with the tally saved by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump didn’t dwell on the pandemic in his remarks Saturday night. Instead, he declared that “our country is in great shape.”
Trump has been aching to see the nation return to normalcy, and has been prepared to push the envelope farther than many states and large metropolis mayors are prepared to go.
For Trump and the nation, it was yet one more vacation clouded by a pandemic that the U.S. has did not carry underneath management.
In late March, just a little greater than per week after he bowed to the have to shut down a lot of the nation, Trump spoke of reopening with “packed” church buildings by Easter Sunday. He relented on that push as his medical advisers warned that it was far too bold. Then he spent chunks of his Memorial Day weekend fuming about critics who he stated have been ignoring falling instances and deaths at the time.
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