President Donald Trump continued his crusade against protesters targeting statues and national monuments, in a fiery Fourth of July speech comparing the 'radical left' to Nazis and terrorists.
Speaking from the White House South Lawn on Saturday during the 'Salute to America' Independence Day celebration, Trump struck a combative tone as he doubled down on his attack on left-wing activists and members of the media, who he accused of slandering the legacy of war heroes.
'American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists toppled the communists, saved American values, upheld American principles, and chased down terrorists to the very ends of the earth,' he said.
'We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing.'
Despite calling for 'unity', Trump did not hesitate to use the country's birthday as an occasion to assail segments of the country that do not support him and said demonstrators were not 'interested in justice or healing.'
Carrying on a theme he pounded on a day earlier against the backdrop of the Mount Rushmore monuments, he went after those who have torn down statues or think some of them, particularly those of Confederate figures, should be removed.
President Donald Trump delivered another fiery speech during the 'Salute to America' event on the South Lawn of the White House on Independence Day
Speaking from the White House South Lawn on Saturday ahead of a night of fireworks and flyovers, Trump struck a combative tone, doubling down on his attack on the 'radical left' and members of the media
The president and First Lady Melania Trump host the 2020 'Salute to America' event on Independence Day
The president had enticed the masses with a 'special evening' of tribute and fireworks despite a surge of coronavirus cases across the country. Pictured: Trump and the first lady watch the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a flyover near the White House
A Trump supporter holds flags as a military aircraft flies over the White House and Ellipse during Independence Day celebrations
Eager to mobilize his political base, Trump doubled down on his attack on the 'radical left' and those he claims are trying to 'erase our history'
Trump's endorsement of big gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore came as many communities decided to scrap fireworks
Support has been growing among Republicans to remove Confederate memorials.
'Our past is not a burden to be cast away,' Trump said.
Eager to mobilize his political base, he promised never to allow 'an angry mob' to tear down statues, 'erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedom', and vowed to defend the 'American way of life which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America.'
In a message to members of the media, Trump accused them of 'slandering' the American people by labeling their 'opponents' as racists.
'When you level these false charges you not only slander me, you not only slander the American people, but you slander generations of heroes who gave their lives for America,' he said. 'You slander people much braver and more principled than you.
'You are dishonoring their great legacy and their memory by insisting that they fought for racism, they fought for oppression. They fought for the exact opposite.
'We will not let the legacy of these people to be slandered by you.'
He addressed a crowd that included frontline health workers battling COVID-19, which has killed nearly 130,000 Americans.
He accused China - where the outbreak originated - of a cover-up that allowed the illness to race across the globe, but hailed American 'scientific brilliance.'
'We'll likely have a therapeutic and or vaccine solution long before the end of the year,' he said.
Saturday's speech at the White House was capped off by fighter jet air shows and a fireworks display over the National Mall
Many of the guests who attended the event were seated close together on the South Lawn and did not wear masks
Trump vowed to protect the legacy of American war heroes and military troops. Pictured: A U.S. military color guard stands on the White House South Lawn during Independence Day celebration
Members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team displays an American flag while landing on the Ellipse near the White House on July 4
Paratroopers from the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team perform over the White House
On a day celebrating American Independence and unity, Trump went after enemies within, who he labeled leftists, looters, agitators'
Saturday's speech at the White House was capped off by fighter jet air shows and a fireworks display over the National Mall.
But the crowds wandering the National Mall for the night's air show and fireworks were strikingly thinner those the gathering for last year's jammed celebration.
Many who showed up wore masks, unlike those seated close together for Trump's South Lawn event, and distancing was easy to do for those scattered across the sprawling space.
Trump's Fourth of July event follows a Friday night speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota where he accused 'angry mobs' of trying to erase history and used the speech to paint himself as a bulwark against left-wing extremism.
In stark words, he accused protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a 'merciless campaign to wipe out our history.'
Even as he pushed ahead with celebrations, he made little mention of the pandemic that has hit his re-election hopes, even as COVID-19 moved further into Trump's inner circle.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraiser for the president and girlfriend of his eldest child, Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for the virus, Trump's campaign said late Friday.
Guilfoyle tweeted Saturday that she was looking forward to 'a speedy recovery.'
People wait for US President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during the 2020 Salute to America at the White House
The president and first lady wave to the crowd ahead of the 'Salute to America' event on Saturday
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand on stage on the White House South Lawn with the Jefferson Memorial and a small crowd of supporters on the Ellipse in the background as they host a 4th of July '2020 Salute to America' to celebrate the U.S. Independence Day holiday at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
In a presidential message Saturday morning on the 244th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Trump acknowledged that 'over the past months, the American spirit has undoubtedly been tested by many challenges.'
His Democratic rival, Joe Biden, said in a statement that the U.S. 'never lived up' to its founding principle that 'all men are created equal,' but today 'we have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.''
Trump's endorsement of big gatherings at the National Mall and at Mount Rushmore came as many communities decided to scrap fireworks, parades and other holiday traditions in hopes of avoiding yet more surges in infection.
Joe Biden, Trump's Democratic rival in the November election, struck a contrasting note with the Republican president and accused him in a Fourth of July op-ed of finding every day 'new ways to tarnish and dismantle our democracy.'
'We have a chance now to give the marginalized, the demonized, the isolated, the oppressed, a full share of the American dream,' Biden said in a separate letter to donors.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had tried to dissuade the Trump administration from holding the fireworks display over the National Mall and informed the Department of the Interior that it went against health officials' guidance amid the pandemic.
Apart from fireworks spectators, activists of different stripes also appeared willing to disregard the health warnings.
Roar of the Deplorables, a bikers group, said via social media that they, too, were planning to gather in Washington on Saturday to stand in protest against what they call 'the anti-Trump regime' and to celebrate the nation's birthday.
Freedom Fighters DC, a new activist group which seeks to rally an ethnically diverse generation of supporters behind liberty for all people, especially the Black population of Washington, is one of the anti-racism groups ignoring the mayor's heed to refrain from gathering.