Local officials are panning the prospect of an unprecedented show of military force that would leave the city on the hook for security, cleanup and road repair — even if the federal government reimburses its costs later.
The early jeers suggest the tensions ahead if Trump proceeds with an elaborate procession in a city that overwhelmingly voted against him and has emerged as an epicenter of progressive resistance.
“I don’t think anyone believes this would be about trying to honor men and women who serve our country,” said council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). “This would only be about feeding one man’s ego.”
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) said that if Trump holds a military parade, he would organize “an equally large parade and march for peace and for nonviolence” to take place simultaneously.
“Maybe this can be a rallying cry for people to come to the nation’s capital and have a demonstration for peace,” he said.
Trump had long mused about holding an American military parade similar to the Bastille Day celebration he witnessed in France that featured uniformed troops, armored vehicles and fighter jets flying overhead. It apparently turned into a presidential directive when Trump met with top Pentagon generals in January, officials told The Washington Post.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) — whose administration is responsible for much of the city services associated with a parade — was skeptical about the idea.
“We would always be concerned about the impact on the city, the impact on safety, the impact on pulling personnel, the impact on our roadways, and quite frankly, the attention it would attract,” Bowser said Wednesday. “Usually when you see big military parades, it’s celebrating an end of a war, and I don’t think that’s been announced.”
Her spokeswoman, Anu Rangappa, added that the city would have more to say once it hears from the Pentagon or the White House. “In the meantime, we do know that just like the wall, he will have to pay for it,” she said.
Christopher Rodriguez, who leads the District’s homeland security and emergency management agency, said the city is positioned to handle a military parade but is concerned about rising costs and declining congressional funding for providing security for federal government events. He said the city recovered only two-thirds of an estimated $30 million in local spending on the inauguration.
An obvious cost of a military parade would be repaving asphalt wrecked by tanks and other heavy vehicles riding down Pennsylvania Avenue, last repaved after Trump’s inauguration. One of the U.S. Army’s most common armored vehicles, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, for example, weighs 27.6 tons — about 14 times heavier than a 2016 Chrysler 300 sedan.
Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the transportation committee, said any worries about impacts to city roads pale in comparison to the message sent by such a parade. “I don’t want to be Russia or North Korea, I don’t want to be a totalitarian state, and this is straight from their playbook,” she said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. House, said Wednesday that the parade would be a waste of money and that she would seek federal funds to offset any costs it imposed on the District.
“While the District of Columbia, as the nation’s capital, is proud to host grand federal celebrations, such as the inauguration, we will fight a shutdown of our city that simply assuages Trump’s desire to brag and boast in a series of tweets,” Norton said.
As winter weather coated parts of the region with ice on Wednesday, the D.C. Council’s official Twitter account, in jest, reminded followers that the government and schools were open but “sadly, the Giant Tank Parade is cancelled. Permanently.”
While the city could take symbolic measures to oppose the parade, it has little power to dictate what the Pentagon and the federal government do.
“The reality, though, is that we can’t stop the president from marching,” Grosso said.
There are other ways to register discontent with federal events: The council mulled downgrading stands during the inauguration, and only three of the 13 members attended the festivities as Trump was sworn into office.
Mark Plotkin, a D.C. political activist and commentator, said the parade presents an unusual opportunity for the District’s mayor and council to grab the president’s attention.
“If they had the chutzpah and guts to say, ‘We’re not participating, you can’t use public works, the police are not going to be available’ — maybe that would provoke some indignation,” he said.
After The Post published a story Tuesday revealing the plans for the parade, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement saying the display is about honoring the troops.
“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” Sanders said. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”
Lacy MacAuley, a D.C. activist and self-described anti-fascist who was involved in protests on the day of Trump’s inauguration, was skeptical a parade will take place but said demonstrators would show up to decry what she called a “preposterous” display of military might.
“If it became something that had a time and date, I believe that absolutely you could expect to see counterprotesting there,” MacAuley said.