The president has drawn fire recently for planning large gatherings, such as a rally expected to take place in Tulsa on Saturday, in the midst of the coronavirus shutdown and social distancing restrictions.
This year’s event will be a somewhat scaled-down version of Trump’s first “Salute to America,” last year, in which the president gave a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial, flanked by armored vehicles and with military jets passing overhead.
It drew immediate condemnation from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who accused the president of “again displaying his fondness for dictators and the trappings of autocracy.”
Beyer and other Democratic lawmakers last month urged Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to avoid such an event rather than risking public health and spending millions of taxpayer dollars during an economic downturn. Instead, Beyer said in a statement, Trump “is using the military to stage yet another costly political photo op.”
Presidents typically have not participated in Fourth of July celebrations on the Mall. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan took part in what was billed as a “Star Spangled Salute to America” at the Jefferson Memorial on July 3.
Trump’s event last year was welcomed by some but derided by others, who said Trump was turning a beloved nonpartisan tradition into something akin to a political rally. Two people were arrested for burning a flag in front of the White House.
The D.C. government cannot dictate what the federal government does on federal land, and the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) did not respond to questions on Friday about the White House’s plan.
As for celebrations on local streets, Bowser said in May that she would not issue any permits for July 4 parades while the city is under coronavirus guidance that prohibits large gatherings.
Since then, Bowser herself has attended some of the protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, gatherings far larger than the current cap of 10 people or the new cap, starting Monday, of 50 people.
She has continued to urge Washingtonians to practice social distancing.
For decades, the National Park Service has set off fireworks on the Mall and musical acts and the National Symphony Orchestra have performed free concerts on the West Lawn of the Capitol on the holiday.
This year’s event will include music, military demonstrations and flyovers “to honor our nation’s service members and veterans,” according to the White House news release.
After Trump’s speech about independence, fireworks will be ignited over the Mall.