A Fourth of July mystery
Uncertainty about Trump’s plans for D.C. event creates security and other concerns.
Will Independence Day festivities be centered around the Washington Monument or shift to the Lincoln Memorial, as the White House has reportedly requested? Will Trump follow through on his plans to give a speech? And, if he does, will the speech be open to anyone, including protesters, or will the White House restrict his audience to supporters at the traditionally nonpolitical event?
The White House hasn’t revealed its plans. The National Park Service, which is primarily responsible for the event, also has gone silent. That leaves the city government, which helps with security, in the dark.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s representative in Congress, said interdepartmental planning meetings for July 4 usually begin up to three months in advance. But to her knowledge, none of those meetings has happened.
“The city is scrambling to figure out what to do, because all they have is the outline of what [the White House] wants,” Norton said. She said she approached the park service for details but “they wouldn’t tell us a thing. You know why? Because they don’t know a thing.”
Independence Day normally draws tens of thousands of people to the National Mall for a celebration capped by fireworks.
The first sign that 2019’s celebration may be a little different came in a February tweet from Trump announcing a special “Salute to America” on July 4 that would feature “an address by your favorite President, me!”
Last week, a National Park Service official was quoted in the Washington Post as saying the White House was planning a Trump speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the event.
But since that report, the White House and the National Park Service have refused to comment. Park service spokesman Mike Litterst released a statement saying only: “We continue to work with the White House on creating a Salute to America program that will bring Americans from all over the country together in celebration of our great nation.”
Norton is predicting a security nightmare, with a new location and format being instituted on short notice and the president’s movements and security requirements causing chaos.
“This will be all sorts of headaches for security,” she said.
The confusion extends to D.C. activists, who are uncertain about how to respond to a July 4 Trump speech.
Some see a golden opportunity to disrupt Trump in a way he’s not used to. Others fear that an attempt to directly confront Trump or disrupt the Fourth of July celebration could backfire.