President Trump said a culture war is targeting the legacy of America, lambasting far-left forces for ‘policing speech’ and for vandalizing American monuments at his Mt. Rushmore fireworks event Friday evening.
“I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated. These heroes will never be defaced. Their legacy will never ever be destroyed,” Mr. Trump said. “Their achievements will never be forgotten and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
The president said there is a liberal movement “designed to overthrow the American revolution” by rewriting American history in schools and squashing debate through policing speech.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history…erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” he said. “Every flaw is magnified. The history is purged, and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition.”
The president’s events at Mt. Rushmore comes amidst a renewed national debate about racism and the country’s early ties to slavery.
As protests have carried on across the country for nearly a month, some demonstrators have turned to vandalizing and tearing down statues of historical American icons whose great accomplishments are under scrutiny for their connections to slavery or racial inequality.
Mr. Trump is attempting to crack down on those destroying statues, and signed an executive order last month protecting U.S. monuments and calling for prison terms of up to 10 years for damage to federal property.
Mt. Rushmore, showcasing Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, has come under fire as a national monument because of the former two presidents’ connection to slavery.
The president rejected the “cancel culture” criticizing the presidents on the memorial and highlighted the achievements of those “American giants.”
Some Native American groups have also protested the monument, arguing the mountains were taken from the Lakota people in violation of previous treaties.
A group of protesters, reportedly mostly Native American, blocked the road to Mt. Rushmore several hours before the president was set to speak. Several were arrested after disobeying dispersal orders from authorities.
The firework event itself has faced backlash for bringing a massive crowd — which issued 7,500 tickets for the fireworks display — in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as the country struggles to keep cases from spiking during the reopening phase.
As of Friday, there were more than 2,780,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 129,777 deaths, according to data gathered from John Hopkins University.
South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said that social distancing and masks won’t be required during the event, but organizers will provide masks for anyone who wants them and screen attendees for COVID-19 symptoms. Not many attending chose to wear masks, according to those at the event.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams defended the administration’s stance on not requiring masks at either of President Trump’s Fourth of July firework shows this weekend, while still urging the public to do so.
“If you make something mandatory, particularly for the younger age groups we’re talking about, many of them will rebel and do the exact opposite,” he said Friday on NBC News. “If people understand why they’re doing it they’re more likely to comply. If it’s mandatory they’ll only do it if someone is watching.”
The fiery speech marked a return of fireworks to the national landmark, which were canceled about a decade ago due to concerns about its large population of Ponderosa pine trees and an infestation of pine beetles, which make the forest more susceptible to wildfires.