Mary Resnick and her husband, Art, have decided to boycott this year’s Fourth of July fireworks on the Mall after watching from the same spot on the plaza of the Lincoln Memorial for 25 years.
Peyton Sherwood says he plans to be near the Mall on the Fourth, selling his “Baby Trump” balloons to protest the president’s policies.
And Victoria Stewart, of Centreville, Va., says she is thinking of taking her family to the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, where they can watch the fireworks without hearing the speech Trump plans to give from the Lincoln Memorial.
Washington’s Fourth of July, usually a feel-good nonpartisan extravaganza, has this year become tangled in politics, with the president’s involvement sparking protests and his policies reportedly threatening to upend long-standing traditions.
As the holiday approaches, the American Pyrotechnics Association plans to tell the U.S. trade representative on Thursday that the president’s proposed tariffs on Chinese goods could drastically curtail fireworks shows as soon as Labor Day.
“It does not impact this Fourth of July,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the association, which represents the U.S. fireworks industry. “It could impact Labor Day. It could impact New Year’s Eve. [It could] definitely impact next Fourth of July season.”
Ninety-nine percent of backyard fireworks and about 75 percent of professional displays come from China, she said. The president has proposed new tariffs of up to 25 percent on Chinese goods, including fireworks, she said.
Two and a half weeks from the Fourth, there is worry about the future and upset over changes to a hallowed summer tradition.
“It’s always been the place I need to be on the Fourth of July,” Mary Resnick, 66, of Arlington, said of the Mall.
“When you’re sitting on those steps at the Reflecting Pool, looking toward the Washington Monument and you turn around and you see the Lincoln [Memorial] behind you and the sun going down, it’s just the perfect place to be.”
She added: “It’s not just the fireworks. It’s everything that’s happening around you that is the Fourth of July. It’s so beautiful.”
She and her family have attended regularly, rain or shine.
“I won’t be there,” she said. “I wouldn’t go for a political speech, a detraction from the purpose of the day. And the purpose of the day is really all of us together celebrating the nation’s birthday. That’s why we go.”
“I’ll be curious to see who is and isn’t moved as I am,” she said.
Art Resnick, 73, said he agreed with his wife: “She’s been dragging me there for 30 years . . . I cannot support this celebration of all the people turning into a political statement by a divisive individual who is the leader of our country.”
In February, Trump tweeted about his plans to speak to Americans on the Fourth: “HOLD THE DATE! . . . Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!”
At the behest of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the usual launch site for the Mall fireworks along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool was moved about 1,500 feet south to West Potomac Park to make more room for about 50,000 more spectators.
Two weeks ago, the District and the U.S. Park Police announced that Trump would speak from the Lincoln Memorial.
Last week, officials said they were trying to arrange a second July 4 fireworks display behind the Lincoln Memorial.
There has been no further word on that effort, and on Tuesday, three U.S. senators wrote to Bernhardt asking for detailed information about the events on the Mall.
“We believe that it is critical that your department is taking the necessary steps to carefully manage taxpayer funds and to ensure that . . . the celebration . . . remains a nonpartisan event focused on national unity and pride,” wrote Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).
An Interior Department spokeswoman emailed Tuesday: “We have received the letter and will respond in a timely manner.”
Meanwhile, plans for protest have emerged.
On June 10, the activist group Code Pink became the first organization to request a protest permit from the National Park Service, seeking to fly the huge “Baby Trump” balloon on the Mall.
The balloon, which has been at other anti-Trump protests, depicts a scowling orange-colored chief executive holding a cellphone and wearing a diaper fastened with a safety pin.
In the same vein, Sherwood, 41, co-owner of the District’s Midlands Beer Garden, got the idea to buy smaller versions of the balloon and sell them near the Mall on the Fourth.
He said he has purchased 400 balloons and plans to sell them from his pickup truck. He said they cost him $2.50 each and that he will price them at $3 apiece.
“I was just looking to get Trump balloons for myself, because I thought they were funny,” he said.
He said he went online and ordered a couple.
Then he and a friend wondered if they could buy a batch and sell them to revelers on July 4. “It was just a joke at first,” he said. “I found a guy online . . . I bought him out of stock.”
Sherwood set up an Eventbrite page for “An Extraordinarily Childish Act of Patriotism and Civil Disobedience” and said the parking location of his truck will be emailed to buyers.
Any leftover balloons will be given away, he said: “This is a not-for-profit venture.”
One glitch is that the Park Service does not allow helium balloons on the Mall.
“But it is up to the U.S. Park Police to enforce this rule,” he wrote on the Eventbrite page. “Hopefully our Park Police officers will be too busy . . . so let your Baby Trump Balloon dance above you in the sky!”
Victoria Stewart, 63, a Centreville attorney, said she attended the Mall fireworks last year, but had planned to skip them this year.
“When I first moved to D.C., it was a wonderful thing to go down to the Mall to observe the program, hang out with the people,” she said. “There was such a feeling of camaraderie.
But she believes things have changed.
“I didn’t even realize . . . the current administration and the philosophy that predominates now in this country would really come into my house,” said Stewart, who is African American.
“You’re thinking that, ‘Okay, this is going on out there, but it’s not really going to be something I have to face,’ ” she said.
Now, she said, “it’s starting to get that way, with racism being thrown in your face when you least expect it, just in your regular daily activities.
“Going to the Mall, I’m wondering, ‘Why are we even going the Mall?’ ” she said. “Why are we even trying to join in the celebration? What are we celebrating? We’re certainly not celebrating unity anymore.
“As a minority, we’re sort of being separated from what the country should be,” she said.
She added: “I’m also somewhat concerned for my safety. People have no filter anymore when it comes to expressing their racial hatred.”
Her plan was to skip the event this year, but she and her husband have family coming to town who want to see the fireworks.
“So I’m taking my relatives to see it, and that’s the only reason I’m going,” she said.
But they may view the fireworks from the Marine Corps’ Iwo Jima memorial, across the Potomac River in Virginia. “That might be more tolerable because then I don’t have to hear” Trump’s speech.
“It’s not as good as actually being on the Mall and being right under the fireworks,” she said. “But it’s probably preferable at this point.”