Thousands expected for Donald Trump’s 4th of July celebration, featuring tanks and lots of protests – USA TODAY


Tanks rolled into D.C. for President Donald Trump’s 4th of July event. Trump confirmed that tanks and other vehicles would be present for his speech. AP/Spectee

WASHINGTON – Tanks, protests and fireworks, oh my! 

Thousands will be gathering Thursday in the nation’s capital to celebrate the birth of America for its annual fireworks event, which this year will feature Army tanks, a flyover of military jets, Air Force One and fireworks. The centerpiece? A speech from President Donald Trump — the first time in decades that a president has addressed the crowd.

But protests are expected and Trump is facing criticisms over the costs of the event and has been accused of injecting politics into a traditionally nonpartisan event. This year’s celebration won’t just attract tourists, Washington, D.C., residents and families looking to observe the holiday. Both protesters and supporters of the president are descending to the heart of the nation’s capital – potentially putting the patriotic holiday on a collision course for partisan fights. 

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Protests galore 

It’s something not usually featured in the nation’s capital for the 4th of July but several protests are planned, including gatherings for a flag burning and a “Baby Trump” blimp. 

The liberal activist organization Code Pink is planning to inflate a Baby Trump blimp, depicting an orange-hued Trump in a diaper clutching a Twitter-ready cell phone in his right hand. It has become a fixture at major protests including recently in London and at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Activists will also bring a 16-foot-tall “Dumping Trump” robot featuring the president sitting on a golden toilet wearing a MAGA-style hat saying “Make America Great Again: Impeach Me.”

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Two military veterans groups are also planning to hand out T-shirts on the mall “to honor the military service and sacrifice” of the family of John McCain, the late GOP senator with whom Trump has feuded. 

VoteVets – a liberal political action committee that almost exclusively backs Democratic candidates, according to OpenSecrets – is teaming up with Rags of Honor – a screen printing shop that employs homeless veterans – to give out the “Big Bad John” shirts depicting the USS John S. McCain.

There’s also a flag-burning protest planned, which was organized by Gregory Lee Johnson — the man at the center of the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case that held the burning of the U.S. flag is constitutionally protected free speech. 

“I am going to D.C. on the Fourth of July and I’m going to burn the flag in protest (of his) whole fascist agenda,” Johnson told USA TODAY before the event. “Think about all Trump has done to whip people into a frenzy.”

Criticisms over price, politicizing the holiday 

Critics and lawmakers, including several candidates in the 2020 White House race, have attacked the president for the extravaganza amid questions about its expense and concerns that he is politicizing the annual celebration. 

Many have focused on a report from The Washington Post that the National Park Service was diverting nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to help cover the costs. An aide who was not authorized to speak publicly about the plans told USA TODAY a preliminary estimate for transporting and displaying the military tanks is about $870,000.


President Donald Trump is marshalling tanks, bombers and other machinery of war for a Fourth of July celebration that traditionally is light on military might, while critics accused him of using America’s military as a political prop. (July 3) AP, AP

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2020 candidates used the event as a line of attack on the president, a sign that the celebration had become a partisan flashpoint.

Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado said the program was “a political spectacle – at the expense of taxpayers and our National Parks.” Marianne Williamson said that watching tanks on the streets of the nation’s capital was “heartbreaking & repugnant.” Andrew Yang said politicizing the military for Independence Day was costly and would set a “terrible precedent.”

But Trump has defended the celebration and dismissed criticisms on Twitter by saying “it will be the show of a lifetime!”

“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth,” Trump wrote. “We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”

Contributing: Max Cohen, Nicholas Wu, Ledyard King and Michael Collins 

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