Trump hosts 4 July celebration event amid criticism
US President Donald Trump is presiding over an event to mark 4 July celebrations at Mount Rushmore, despite concerns over coronavirus.
In a speech at the South Dakota landmark, he said it would “stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom”.
“This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced,” he told a cheering crowd.
Mount Rushmore features the carved faces of four US presidents, reports BBC.
Activists have long taken issue with the monument, which was created on land sacred to the Sioux tribe. Two of the former presidents depicted – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – were slave-owners.
The president’s decision to hold an event there has been criticised at a time when statues of Confederate generals and slave-owners are being re-evaluated, and in many cases pulled down, amid anti-racism protests.
What else is Trump expected to say?
President Trump is expected to denounce “cancel culture”, and the toppling of monuments during recent anti-racism protests.
A Trump campaign official said he would rail against people trying to “tear down” the United States.
“The left wing mob and those practicing cancel culture are engaging in totalitarian behaviour that is completely alien to American life – and we must not accept it,” the official said, summarising Mr Trump’s expected comments.
A fireworks display will also be held at the pre-Independence Day event, which 7,500 people are expected to attend.
Masks will be available but not required, and social distancing will not be strictly enforced.
Welcoming people to the event, South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem echoed the president’s tone on protesters, accused them of “trying to wipe away the lessons of history”.
“This is being done deliberately to discredit America’s founding principles,” she declared.
The fireworks will be the first at Mount Rushmore in over a decade, after a ban was imposed over environmental concerns.
The monument is surrounded by a national forest and some fear the display could set off wildfires in the dry brush, though local officials have said the risk is low.
Friday’s gathering is the latest to be held by President Trump during the coronavirus pandemic, as he attempts to fire up his supporters ahead of November’s presidential election.