“Our children are taught in school to hate their own country,” he claimed.
“There is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance. If you do not speak its language, perform its rituals, recite its mantras, and follow its commandments then you will be censored, banished, blacklisted, persecuted, and punished. Not gonna happen to us,” he said.
The event at the start of the Fourth of July weekend, drew an estimated 7500 people packed tightly into an amphitheatre beneath the iconic landmark that depicts the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Masks were offered to attendees but many did not wear them.
Trump barely mentioned the pandemic, even as the country surpassed 53,000 new cases of the coronavirus in 24 hours and health officials urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans. Seven states posted a record number of new cases on Friday. Almost a quarter of the known global deaths have now occurred in the United States – nearly 129,000.
Instead, according to The New York Times, the President “leaned into the culture wars that invigorate his base of supporters”. Railing against what he described as a dangerous “cancel culture”, Trump said the left wanted to “unleash a wave of violent crime” in cities across the country. He said they “think the American people are weak and soft and submissive.” In contrast, “he framed himself as the leader who would protect the Second Amendment, law enforcement, and the country’s heritage”, The Times wrote.
Trump has held three public events that have drawn thousands of supporters over the past three weeks, despite public-health officials urging Americans to avoid large gatherings.
The virus has even reached Trump’s inner circle. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and the girlfriend of Donald Trump jnr, tested positive in South Dakota before attending the Mount Rushmore event, according to a source familiar with the situation. Trump jnr tested negative, the source said.
The President has come under criticism for his “law and order” reaction to nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
Mount Rushmore has not hosted a fireworks spectacle since 2009 because of environmental concerns. Trump advocated for a resumption of the display, and the state says the surrounding Black Hills National Forest has “gained strength” since then and that fireworks technology has advanced.
Native American protesters were arrested after blocking a road to the South Dakota landmark, according to video livestreamed on social media. They have criticised Trump’s visit for increasing the risk of spreading the virus and for celebrating US independence in an area that is sacred to them.
South Dakota, a solidly Republican state, has not been hit as hard as other states by COVID-19, but cases in Pennington County, where Mount Rushmore is located, have more than doubled over the past month.
Cheryl Schreier, superintendent of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial from 2010 to 2019, admonished Trump for defying social distancing guidelines for an event she warned carried risks of spreading disease, triggering wildfires and contaminating groundwater.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” she wrote in a column published in the Washington Post.
Trump will hold another celebration for the July 4 holiday on Saturday in Washington.
Reuters, The New York Times