On Monday, activist group Code Pink became the first organization to request a protest permit from the National Park Service ahead of Trump’s planned overhaul of the city’s premier Fourth of July celebration. But organizers hope the screaming-baby balloon will be a sign of what’s to come that day: protests, and more of them.
The day will be busy as it is. More than a dozen other groups and individuals have requested space on the Mall that day — for activities that include making cards for troops, leading group meditations, selling books of poetry and preaching. They will join hundreds of thousands of Americans who annually head to the Mall to watch the fireworks.
District officials have expressed concern over how the president’s presence might affect visitors and the typically nonpartisan tenor of the celebration.
“It’s about the worst holiday he could have chosen,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has said. “You never want to make events like this around a single person. This is the difference between the Soviet Union — the old Soviet Union — and the United States. Cults of personality are not how we operate in this country.”
Code Pink organizers said the decision to import the blimp originated around the time Trump announced he would hold a military parade in Washington last year. The parade was canceled amid questions about its impact and price tag, estimated to cost as much as $92 million.
Through online fundraising efforts that began in July 2018, Code Pink raised more than $10,000 to bring “Baby Trump” to the District.
“We’ve just switched our plans from the military parade to the Fourth of July,” Code Pink co-director Ariel Gold said. “We’re appalled that Trump is taking that day to spew his hateful and racist rhetoric . . . and we really hope this gets canceled, too.”
Code Pink is asking to fly “Baby Trump” over “any open grassy area nearest to [the] Lincoln Memorial,” according to a permit application filed with the Park Service. The group said it expects about 40 people — including its setup and teardown crews — to attend its protest.
The Park Service has permitted a protest-by-balloon before: In 2017, an inflatable 30-foot-tall chicken with a golden head of coifed hair meant to look like Trump’s was displayed on the Ellipse south of the White House.
No other protest organizers have requested a permit from the Park Service for July 4. Such requests are handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said.
The U.S. Secret Service has not released details about the timing and duration of the president’s speech.
The White House declined to comment about the blimp or the day’s activities on the Mall.
Trump announced his plans to speak July 4 in a February tweet promising one of the biggest gatherings in Washington history, with a “major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me.”
The Washington Post reported last month that the president was deeply involved in organizing changes to the annual event, which draws large crowds to the Mall each year.
Calling the program “A Salute to America,” Trump plans to address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial and move the fireworks to West Potomac Park. Federal agencies, including the Park Service and U.S. Park Police, have said they are working with the White House to determine the logistics of the day.
Litterst likened piecing the day’s events together to playing a giant game of Tetris.
“As long as everyone’s flexible, we do our best to accommodate the requests we get,” he said.
This month, House Democratic leaders — including Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) — wrote a letter to Trump, decrying his decision to place himself at the center of the July 4 festivities as something that “could create the appearance of a televised, partisan campaign rally on the Mall at public expense.”
Code Pink’s primary goal, Gold said, is to fly the “Baby Trump” balloon close to where the president will speak.
“We see it as an image of Trump’s behavior, which is, as we all know, unpredictable and prone to tantrums about things that are really, really dangerous,” she said. “It’s a way of saying, we really need an adult in the White House.”