On the other side of the issue, Internet talk show host Adam Kokesh had sought to mount a protest Thursday that would have involved 1,000 activists carrying loaded rifles and marching across the Memorial Bridge. The protest was canceled after police made clear that entering the District with loaded arms was against the law.
A video surfaced Thursday morning that appeared to show Kokesh loading a shotgun in Freedom Plaza. In the 23-second video, Kokesh appears to pull four shells out of his suit jacket and load a shotgun while saying: “We will not be silent. We will not obey. We will not allow our government to destroy our humanity. We are the final American Revolution. See you next Independence Day.”
U.S. Park Police and the D.C. police said in a joint statement that they were investigating.
Let’s go to the Mall
Early Thursday afternoon, swarms of Washingtonians and tourists began to arrive on the Mall, strategizing about the best place to stake out and then passing the hours with card games, novels and running down the batteries of their cellphones. One family packed Yahtzee; another brought a volleyball net and inflatable pool. A group of teenagers from Southern California, on a church road trip, rested on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, not far from a group of picnicking students from Colombia.
“It’s so exciting to be in the nation’s capital today,” said Sandra Cremin, who camped out on the Mall with her mother. “I don’t think there’s a better place to be on July 4th, is there?”
First, there was a concert featuring Barry Manilow, along with two “American Idol” winners and stars of such popular television shows as “Glee” and “Smash.” The National Symphony Orchestra performed with John Williams, a composer known for his work on blockbuster movies.
Four friends in their 20s journeyed from New York, Connecticut and Georgia to see Darren Criss of “Glee” perform. They traveled by bus and train, then stood in a long security line so they could stake out a good viewing spot — and then wait five hours.
“It’s a day to celebrate and be proud of the country you’re from and be proud of the progress we’re making,” said Windsor Bentley, 28, a secretary from Connecticut. “We’re making strides. We’re actually going to be a land of the free.”
Shortly after 9 p.m., as Manilow was singing “My Country Tis of Thee,” a shower of sparks went up in the sky, framing the Washington Monument in a shimmering halo of gold, red, blue and green.
There were shrieks. People flocked closer toward the monument.
The cameras and the iPhones came out.
Then the orchestra launched into Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” a fireworks classic. Many in the crowd jumped as cannons boomed.
Nicole Chavez, Stefanie Dazio, Trishula Patel and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.