In a sweltering capital threatened by storms, the traditional Fourth of July parade on Thursday served as a warm-up act to a distinctly nontraditional evening event at the Lincoln Memorial, where President Donald Trump made plans to command the stage against the backdrop of a show of military muscle.
Protesters unimpressed by his “Salute to America” programme inflated a roly-poly balloon depicting Mr. Trump as an angry, diaper-clad baby.
With his decision to add his own production to the usual festivities, Mr. Trump set himself up to be the first President in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day. “I will speak on behalf of our great Country!” he said in a morning tweet. “Perhaps even Air Force One will do a low & loud sprint over the crowd.”
But thunderstorms threatened, with periods of “torrential rain” forecast by the National Weather Service.
“We think that he is making this about himself and it’s really a campaign rally,” said Medea Benjamin, co-director of the anti-war organisation Codepink. “We think that he’s a big baby… He’s erratic, he’s prone to tantrums, he doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. And so this is a great symbol of how we feel about our President.”
The balloon remained tied down at the Mall because park officials restricted the group’s permission to move the balloon or fill it with helium, Benjamin said.
A small crowd gathered to take pictures with the balloon, which drew Trump supporters and detractors.
Kevin Malton, a Trump supporter from Middlesboro, Kentucky, came with his son for the holiday and took pictures with the balloon. He was glad to see the mix of political beliefs at the event, he said. “Even though everybody has different opinions,” he said, “everybody’s getting along.”
In a message marking the 243rd anniversary of the Founding Fathers’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Trump called the document a milestone that “cast off the shackles of tyranny.”
The White House said Mr. Trump would speak at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a ticket-only, VIP crowd of Republican donors, administration and campaign officials, family members and those who had come to see him or protest what they saw as a divisive intrusion on a traditionally unifying national holiday.
The Pentagon was arranging for an Air Force B-2 stealth bomber and other warplanes to conduct flyovers. There will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters and Marine V-22 Ospreys. A small number of Army Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles were stationed in the zone.