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Thousands of Americans gather for Fourth of July protests across the US

More than a hundred heavily armed Black Panthers descended on the country's largest Confederate monument to demand its removal, while demonstrators burned American flags near Trump Tower as tens of thousands across the country attended Fourth of July protests.

Protesters held rallies and sit-ins Saturday in Georgia, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and more, to remind authorities that Independence Day did not mean freedom for all - and that many communities are still fighting for equality 224 years later. It comes after weeks of unrest following the cop killing of George Floyd which sparked nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality.

On Saturday, as Donald Trump hosted hundreds at the White House for a July Fourth fireworks display, thousands of Americans ditched their traditional cookouts and celebrations to gather in Washington DC and march in the searing 90-degree heat near the National Mall.

Flag burnings were also seen in Washington, as well as in New York City outside the Trump Tower, and on Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame star.

And at the nation's biggest Confederate monument, which has been used as a meeting place by the KKK, the Black Panthers gathered to demand the removal of the racist sculpture.

A large group of Black Panther Party members descended onto Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial - a site where the Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that was formed by Confederate Army veteran, held its rebirth ceremony atop mountain in 1915 with flaming crosses

The burning of the American flag outside of Trump Tower is viewed as a direct act of defiance against an administration that has been criticized for being tone deaf on racial issues 

Second Amendment groups gather to protest in Richmond, Virginia, to fight for open carry laws in defiance of Gov. Ralph Northam and in remembrance of gun violence victim Duncan Lemp

Activists and members of different tribes from the region block a road as they protest in Keystone, South Dakota, on July 3 during a demonstration around the Mount Rushmore National Monument and the visit of US President Donald Trump

Gregory 'Joey' Johnson (right) whose burning of an American flag in Texas in 1984 led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the act as free speech, burns a U.S. flag near Donald Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during an anti-Trump rally in in Los Angeles, California 


In Georgia, as many as 100 reported members of the Black Panther Party descended into Stone Mountain Park as calls to remove the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial boomed.

Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, a nine-story-high base-relief sculpture carved into a sprawling rock face northeast of Atlanta, is perhaps the South's most audacious monument to its pro-slavery legacy still intact. 

Despite long-standing demands for the removal of what many consider a shrine to racism, the giant depiction of three Confederate heroes on horseback still towers ominously over the Georgia countryside, protected by state law.

It, as well as many other Confederate statues, have become a debate between Americans who argue they celebrate hate ideologies and those who believe it honors the traditions of the South. 

Photos taken at Stone Mountain Park showed a crowd of armed Black Panther Party members hidden behind various face coverings on Saturday. 

The Black Panther Party, originally named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was founded in Oakland, California, by then-college students Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in 1966.

Members of the Black Panther Party (pictured) arrived in Stone Mountain Park on July 4th as officials reopened the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial - a site commonly used by white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan

Pictured: Members of the Black Panther party armed with assault weapons arrive to Stone Mountain Park in Georgia as a controversial Confederate monument reopens on Saturday 

Gerald Griggs: 'Here we are in Atlanta, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and still we have the largest Confederate monument in the world. It's time for our state to get on the right side of history'

The political group was initially founded to monitor the behavior of Oakland Police Department officers, who were accused of police brutality, with armed civilian patrols called 'copwatching.'

More than  50 years later, the current protests over police brutality have picked up where the founders left off after the death of George Floyd and several other Black Americans by law enforcement.

'Here we are in Atlanta, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and still we have the largest Confederate monument in the world,' said Gerald Griggs, a vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP civil rights group, which staged a march last week calling for the carving to be scraped from the mountainside. 

'It's time for our state to get on the right side of history.'

Stone Mountain has long held symbolism for white supremacists. The Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that was formed by Confederate Army veterans and has a history of lynchings and terror against Black people, held its rebirth ceremony atop mountain in 1915 with flaming crosses.

Thousands of protesters across the United States sidestepped traditional barbecues and cookouts to participate in Fourth of July protests against police brutality and racism 

Pictured: A man faces a row of police as activists and members of different tribes from the region block the road to Mount Rushmore National Monument in Keystone, South Dakota on July 3

Pictured: : People rally in front of the high school to protest the name of the two educational institutions that comprise Lusher Charter School after marching from the elementary school campus on Willow Street to the high school campus of Freret Street in New Orleans, Louisiana 

A sign reading 'Fight White Supremacy Free All Political Prisoners' is hoisted into the air at a Fourth of July Black Lives Matter demonstration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Longer than a 100-yard American football field, it features the likenesses of Jefferson Davis, the president of the 11-state Confederacy, and two of its legendary military leaders, Robert E. Lee and Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson, notched in a relief 400 feet above ground.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization that staunchly defends Stone Mountain and other Confederate statues and emblems.

Dedicated to teaching the 'Southern Cause,' according to its website, it believes their removal is akin to purging American history.

Klansmen still hold occasional gatherings in the shadows of the edifice, albeit now met with protesters behind police tape. Many of those cross-burnings took place on or around July 4 

Pictured: the scorched remains of an American flag burned by protesters left on President Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles, California

Hundreds of people held images of gun violence victims and Black Lives Matter protest signs like 'Amerikka was never free or great' during a demonstration in Chicago, Illinois

But with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, segregationist officials in the state pushed for the creation the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in 1958 and purchased the park. The carving was completed in 1972.

'This debate has been going on for years, and we're sensitive to it,' John Bankhead, a spokesman for the group, said. 

'We want to tell history as it is, not as some say it is.'   

New York City

Further north, residents brought their fight to the front steps of President Trump's 58-floor Trump Tower on Saturday with chants, protest signs and even several instances of flag burning.

Footage taken outside of Trump Tower near New York City's Columbus Circle showed a large group of demonstrators reportedly with the Revolution Club preparing to set the flags ablaze.

A speaker at the event cited 'police murder, terror and mass incarceration of Black and Brown people' as one of many for why the 'United States of America is irredeemable.'

A large America flag was set on fire while people chanted 'slavery, genocide and war…America was never great.'

The burning flag was then set on the ground and fellow protesters used to fire to lit smaller American flags.

Protesters holding signs like 'The Founding Father's Owned Slaves' and Black Lives Matter signs kneel near the remains of a torched American flag outside of Trump Tower

Several American flags were torched on Saturday as protesters lit them ablaze near Trump Tower in New York City as citizens are becoming increasingly exhausted by divisive rhetoric

The New York Police Department said there were around 1,200 orderly protests inundating the city as part of the United New York Fourth of July Rally & March

A speaker at the event cited 'police murder, terror and mass incarceration of Black and Brown people' as one of many for why the 'United States of America is irredeemable'

Several New Yorkers taking to the streets for peaceful protests wore face masks and coverings as states report surges in coronavirus cases across the country 

According to FNTV, the group did one flag burning in Columbus Circle and one directly in front of Trump Tower.

New York City Police Department officers were reportedly at the scene and watched as the American flags were burned.

An NYPD truck stationed near Trump Hotel played the Star Spangled Banner through speakers afterwards.

In Brooklyn, New Yorkers held a 'Confronting July 4th' rally to honor Black and indigenous activists, USA Today reports.

Pictured: a woman holds up a damaged American flag above a fire created by several smaller flags near Trump Tower in New York City  

Macellaro: 'What does the Fourth of July mean to people who are still oppressed, marginalized – who don't have all the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country?'

Anti-racism protests continue at the Madison Square Park in New York City as people carry signs reading 'The Fourth of July is a National Lie' and 'The Police Should Not Be Above The Law'

New York City officials announced that traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge was temporarily stopped due to the several protesters with United New York Fourth of July Rally & March on Saturday 

The groups reportedly 'refuse(s) to celebrate the whitewashing of this country.'

Event organizer Jo Macellaro referenced a speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass, titled 'What to the slave is Fourth of July' as still relevant today.

'So much of it is still relevant,' said said. 'What does the Fourth of July mean to people who are still oppressed, marginalized – who don't have all the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country?'

The expansive and large protests even stopped traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday evening, CNN reports.

'Due to protest activity, all Brooklyn-bound lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge are closed. Consider alternate routes and allow for additional travel time,' the New York City Emergency Management announced on Twitter.

The New York Police Department said there's an estimated 1,200 orderly protests inundating the city as part of the United New York Fourth of July Rally & March. 

Richmond, Virginia 

Armed Black Lives Matter activists and right-wing groups came together in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday in a united show of support for the 2nd Amendment at an Open Carry rally.

At least 200 people, the majority proudly toting rifles, semi-automatic weapons and other firearms, gathered outside Capitol Square to protest against gun control and the violation of constitutional rights. 

The rally, organized by activist group Virginia Knights, also served as a memorial for Duncan Lemp, a 21-year-old man who was fatally shot in his Maryland home in March during a no-knock police raid.  

Demonstrators fighting for Second Amendment rights on Saturday gathered in Richmond, Virginia, and were joined by members of other groups like Black Lives Matter and militia organizations

Scores of activists, the majority armed with rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and other fire arms gathered near Capitol Square on July 4 

United: Armed Black Lives Matter groups and right-wing activists came together at a Richmond rally on Saturday in support of the 2nd Amendment 

The gun enthusiasts gathered to protest against legislation requiring background checks and purchase limits on firearms. Pictured: Protesters proudly exercise their 2nd Amendment right 

'This rally on July Fourth is to show that gun owners will not be trampled on! We are citizens who demand our 2nd Amendment rights be protected by the very people who swore an oath to protect us. Any and all gun laws are an infringement and are unconstitutional!' the Facebook event read. 

'Duncan Socrates Lemp was our brother unjustly murdered in his sleep [under] the same laws in Maryland that Governor Northam has signed into law in VA.'

Organizers said they aimed to show Governor Northam 'that we stand strong as patriots, Americans, and free men and women'. 

Photos showed protesters, from both ends of the political spectrum, mingling as they exercised their right to bear arms.

Activists group got together on July 4 to protest open carry laws and to honor in Duncan Lemp - a 21-year-old who was fatally shot during a no-knock raid 

At least eight protesters part of the Second Amendment demonstration in Richmond, Virginia, brandish firearms as they walk in defiance of Gov. Ralph Northam

Virginia Senator Amanda Chase, who is running for Governor as a Republican, was the keynote guest at the rally. She is pictured arriving with her gun 

Among the crowd of guests was Virginia state Senator Amanda Chase, who is running for governor.

Chase, strapped with a rifle, spoke to activists on her stance on police and the ongoing protests taking place across the nation.

'We don't have any tolerance for bad apples,' she said. 

'We mostly have good police officers that do the right thing. And I don't believe in defunding the police, but we need to help people who have mental health issues. We need to add more, not take away,' she added.

The event comes six months after a Virginia gun rights rally that drew more than 22,000 armed activists to the state's capitol building to protest gun-control legislation making its way through the newly Democratic-controlled state legislature.

The protest came after Governor Northam banned carrying weapons onto the capitol grounds. 

Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to converge on Saturday in the heart of Washington, where U.S. President Donald Trump will host an Independence Day fireworks display and military flyover  

Disregarding the Washington mayor's warnings of the risk of gathering as many U.S. states mark a record number of new COVID-19 cases, crowds began to assemble early on a hot Saturday morning.

Police officers blocked off streets around the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Lincoln Memorial, where demonstrators planned to join one of the dozen organized protests in advance of Trump's nighttime address on the South Lawn.

Angela Moore (center), holds a US flag upside down and a sign that reads ' Stop Killing' while standing near policemen during a small standoff between police and protesters in front of Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, DC

A protester shouts at a line of policemen during a small standoff between police and protesters in front of Lafayette Square near the White House in Washington, DC

Protesters in Richmond, Virginia, gathered near the now-defaced Robert E. Lee statue on July 4. The Confederate monument was one of many that have been damaged since protests began in May

Members of the DC Metropolitan Police arrest a black man at Black Lives Matter Plaza July 4, 2020 in Washington, DC, as protests over police brutality and systemic racism continue

Activist groups pledged to hold peaceful protests for reforms following the May killing of George Floyd. 

Similar to New York City, protesters were pictured burning several American flags in defiance of both Trump and prejudice policies. 

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. 

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.

'Black folks are not free from the chains of oppression, so we don't get to truly celebrate Independence Day,' said Kerrigan Williams, 22, one of the founders of the group, which will host a march and an arts demonstration on Saturday afternoon.

'We're marching today to showcase that Black folks are still fighting for the simple liberties that the constitution is said to provide.''

President Trump has repeatedly been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and has unequivocally sided with law enforcement. 

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