United States President Donald Trump has rejected the cancel culture of brought by the anti-racism protests in a speech on July 4 at Mount Rushmore.
The Republican President railed against those who targeted statues of Confederate leaders as “angry mobs”.
Mr. Trump condemned the racial equality demonstrations “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children”.
“We will not be silenced,” he said.
The president who has been criticized for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic avoided to talk on the disease that has now claimed over 130,000 lives in the country. On Friday with the largest single day jump US has now over 2.5mn confirmed cases, more than any other nation. Masks and social distancing measures were thrown out of window at the Mount Rushmore event. The place of the event was also controversial as the carved faces of the 4 United States former President, two of whom – Thomas Jefferson and George Washington – were slave owners were installed at the site. The land of the location used for the event was also snatched from Indigenous American tribe Lakota Sioux by the government in the 1800s.
Talking to the place (Mount Rushmore) itself, the president said the South Dakota landmark 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 his supporters.
The President added that people who target “symbols of national heritage” will face “the fullest extent of the law”. Trump warned that those who defaced the statues could be sentenced to 10 years in jail, making a reference to a recent executive order he signed for the protection of the colonial symbols.
The pre-Independence Day event was decorated by fireworks display witnessed by about 7,500 ticket-holders. The fireworks happened at the site for the first time in more than 10 years after a ban was imposed over the fears, they could ignite wildfires in the dry bush. South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem endorsed the tone set by President accusing protesters of “trying to wipe away the lessons of history”.
“This is being done deliberately to discredit America’s founding principles,” she said.
Friday’s gathering was the latest feather in the cap of President Trump that was organized during corona pandemic as he geared up to mobilized his support camp before November’s presidential election.
Native American groups have criticized Mr. Trump’s visit to the site and celebrations for a potential health risk. Mount Rushmore is sacred to native Americans. Many Native Americans don’t like to be part of 4th July celebrations because they link it with the colonization of their indigenous land and the compromise on their cultural freedoms. The site was carved between 1927 and 1941 in the Black Hills of South Dakota was taken from the Lakota Sioux during the past century.
The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Before the conservative event sponsored by Republicans, a group of mostly Native American protesters blocked a road leading toe the monuments with their vehicles prompting a tense stand-off between them and police.
They demonstrators had to eventually disperse when the National Guard and police officers used pepper spray and smoke bombs to clear the area. White vans that blocked the road were moved away and a number of protesters were arrested on account of unlawful assembly.