Washington (dpa) - In the middle of the worsening corona crisis, US President Donald Trump used the Independence Day celebrations for dark and polarizing messages.
Trump made a speech to the nation against demonstrators and opponents - as on the eve of the traditionally apolitical holiday. "We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues or erase our history," Trump said on Saturday (local time).
Despite concerns about new coronavirus infections, Trump has not waived the lavish celebrations in the US capital. A massive fireworks display followed a military air show. The majority of the guests in the White House garden weren't wearing a mask. A similar picture had emerged the night before in the state of South Dakota. There, several thousand people watched Trump's performance in front of an impressive backdrop: the national monument of Mount Rushmore - the mountain rock with the carved heads of four ex-presidents - was enthroned above the stage.
On July 4th, Americans celebrate “Independence Day” every year. On the day in 1776, emissaries from the 13 American colonies in Philadelphia officially accepted a declaration to separate them from Britain as the United States. Independence Day has been a public holiday in the USA since 1941 and has traditionally been the occasion for parades, parades, speeches and fireworks.
But this year, the most patriotic of all US holidays, is under the wake of the worsening corona pandemic and nationwide protests against racism and police violence after the death of African American George Floyd. The United States has broken its own dramatic record of corona infection rates within 24 hours several times in a row in the past few days. For three days in a row (as of Saturday evening local time), according to Johns Hopkins University, the numbers were over 50,000 - more than ever since the pandemic started. In Florida alone, almost 11,500 new infections were recorded within a day.
Trump again downplayed the scope of the situation on Saturday. "Our strategy is progressing well," said Trump. At the beginning of the pandemic, there were no tests for the new virus, and the USA has now carried out almost 40 million tests. Trump claimed that 99 percent of the cases found were “completely harmless”. In total, more than 2.8 million infections with the Sars-CoV-2 pathogen have been detected in the USA. Around 130,000 people died as a result of an infection.
Health experts disagree with Trump's statement that the high number of infections can only be explained by the number of tests and refer to the increased proportion of positive tests. The US president again blamed China for the global spread of the virus and accused the country of cover-up. "China must be fully held accountable," said Trump.
Trump also used his appearance to attack demonstrators and political opponents. The "American heroes" had defeated the Nazis, fascists, communists and terrorists, saved American values and upheld principles, Trump said. "We are now about to defeat the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the troublemakers and and looters," he said.
In allusion to the protests against racism and police violence, which have not stopped for weeks and have started a debate about the culture of remembrance, Trump renewed his statement from the eve of Independence Day: «We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues or erase our history . » The values, traditions, customs and beliefs would be protected.
Trump is an eyesore that protests have challenged or overturned statues depicting historical figures associated with racism. He also rejects changing controversial military base names.
A famous controversial figure is Christopher Columbus, who is often referred to as the "discoverer of America". Historians and civil rights activists, however, criticize him for his violent behavior towards the Native Americans and for having made a decisive contribution to the transatlantic slave trade. San Francisco recently removed a statue of Columbus. Trump said: "We will defend, protect, and preserve the American way of life that began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America."
On the evening of Independence Day, according to media reports, demonstrators in Baltimore on the east coast of the USA tore a Columbus statue from its base and threw it into the water in the harbor.
In several US cities, including Washington and New York, protests against racism and police violence broke out again on National Day. Demonstrators lit US flags in both cities, as shown in the photos.
Trump wants to run for a second term in the election in four months - but he is under considerable pressure. Polls see Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the lead. Caution should be exercised in the polls, as the 2016 election showed. Trump is not only criticized for dealing with the Corona crisis, but also for his reaction to Floyd's death and the largely peaceful protests.
Biden addressed the concerns of the demonstrators in a video message for Independence Day. "We have the chance to tear the roots of systematic racism out of this country," he said. In an opinion piece for NBC News, he wrote that the United States had never lived up to its founding principle that all people are created equal. This is what it says in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. Biden complained that the "pursuit of a more perfect community" had been thrown off the rails in recent years. "And nobody bears more responsibility for this than President Donald Trump."
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200705-99-676624 / 2
Speech by US President Donald Trump in South Dakota
Message from Joe Biden
Opinion Biden NBC News
Dates Johns Hopkins University
Department of Health Florida for current numbers