WASHINGTON – As Donald Trump supporters and opponents confronted each other during a hot and rainy Fourth of July, Trump himself stressed holiday themes and paid tribute to the military during a speech that largely avoided politics.
"Our nation is stronger today than it ever was before, "Trump said at one point in his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, echoing a claim he has made often on the campaign trail.
" As long as we stay true to our cause, as long as we remember our great history and as long as we never stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America can do, "Trump said during his" Salute to America "event.
The day featured a parade, military flyovers, a display of tanks and demonstrations. Trump supporters and protesters gathered in Washington from Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to the expanse or National Mall. No major violence was reported, though at least one scuffle broke out at a flag burning in front of the White House.
While counting the story of George Washington and other revolutionaries who defeated the British more than two centuries ago, Trump also singled out each branch of the modern U.S. military, including his proposed "Space Force."
He also discussed U.S. accomplishments, from Alexander Graham Bell and telephone to the Wright Brothers and the airplane. He was introduced to a number of invited guests, from the flight director on the first moon landing in 1969 to gold star families who lost loved ones in battle.
The setting reflected the program's military theme, as tanks were displayed on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, including one in front of the speaking platform. Air Force One flew overhead against a cloudy twilight sky as the president and first lady Melania Trump ascended the makeshift stage in front of the memorial
At different points, sometimes amid a light rain, Trump paused in his speech to allow flyovers of allow. various pieces of equipment, from Coast Guard choppers to a B-2 stealth bomber.
The 47-minute set of remarks ended with a military band and choir performing a rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic." During the event, the band played the Army, Navy and Air Force marching songs.
Trump, who spoke behind a shield of rain-smeared bulletproof glass, also noted he was standing near the spot where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.
During another discussion of American heroes, Trump mentioned Betsy Ross. He did not mention the current dispute surrounding the Betsy Ross flag, and whether white supremacist groups are using it as a symbol.
The weather may have fallen down the crowd, but Trump supporters packed the area in front of the stage, and On either side of the Reflecting Pool that stretches away from the Lincoln Memorial
"That same American spirit that emboldened our founders has kept us strong throughout our history," Trump said. "To this day that spirit runs through every American patriot. It lives on every single one of you." On the National Mall earlier Thursday, the liberal activist organization Code Pink inflated a Baby Trump blimp, depicting an orange-hued trump in a diaper clutching a Twitter-ready cell phone in his right hand. It has become a fixture at major protests including recently in London and at the United States-Mexico border. The balloon was later deflated because of the wind on the mall.
A baby trump balloon is displayed near the Washington Memorial on July 4, 2019. (Photo: Yehyun Kim, USAT)
Trump said he was inspired to hold the Fourth of July extravaganza at a Bastille Day parade he attended in Paris two years. He has long said he wanted a similar event in Washington to honor the U.S. Military, complete with flyovers and rolling military hardware
But critics have accused him of injecting politics in a traditionally nonpartisan holiday celebration with his "Salute to America" event.
A large area was fenced off around the Lincoln Memorial, preventing people without invitations from getting to the monument.
It was the first time a presidential administration has sponsored a Fourth of July event since the Richard Nixon administration backed into "Honor America Day" in 1970. Nixon was out of town , though he did deliver a speech by video. Protesters stormed the Nixon event, also at the Lincoln Memorial, nearly shutting it down.
On Thursday in front of the White House, protesters, some wearing T-shirts that said "Revolution – Nothing Less!" lit up an American flag on Pennsylvania Avenue, the flame rising high above the street. Counter-demonstrators wearing trump gear rushed the protesters who were the flag, leading to fisticuffs and throw-downs that had to be broken up by police.
Activists also brought a 16-foot number "Dumping Trump" robot featuring the president sitting on a golden toilet wearing a MAGA-style hat saying "Make America Great Again: Impeach Me. "
Nearby Trump supporters, wearing bright red hats emblazoned by the Trump slogan, responded by chanting" I love America! I love America! "
Trump said his viewing of a Bastille Day parade two years inspired his desire to host a military-themed event in Washington;
Critics noted that tickets to Trump's events went to supporters and Republican party members, while the population at large was shut out.
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, a veteran, said the planning of the trump event was designed to boost his own ego.
"Reducing our nation to tanks and shows of muscle just makes us look like the child of loud mouth guy at the bar," he said during a campaign stop in Iowa
While trumped politics in his speech, many of his supporters in the crowd expressed great interest in his 2020 re-election bid.
While waiting for an hour wait, Trump supporters Will Bowman, his son Peyton and June Davis talked about his important turnout is next year's election The Bowmans and Davis never met before.
"That's the beauty of this event," Will Bowman said. . " Davis said she was excited for the military display, despite criticism from protestors. "That's why we're here today," Davis said. "The military takes care of us."
Will Bowman said he knows today, with the president's speech and the fireworks, will be an unforgettable day for his children.
"(Peyton) 's never going to forget this day for the rest of his life, "he said.
contributing: Elizabeth Lawrence, Sarah Elbeshbishi, Olivia Sanchez, Jason Lalljee, Max Cohen, Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King
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