Prez pushes racial divi­sion, flouts virus rules in front of mostly mask­less crowd


MOUNT RUSH­MORE NA­TIONAL ME­MO­RIAL, S.D. — At the foot of Mount Rush­more on the eve of In­de­pen­dence Day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made a di­rect ap­peal to dis­af­fected white vot­ers four months be­fore Elec­tion Day, ac­cus­ing pro­test­ers who have pushed for racial jus­tice of en­gag­ing in a “mer­ci­less cam­paign to wipe out our his­tory.”

The pres­i­dent dug fur­ther into Amer­i­can di­vi­sions on Fri­day, of­fer­ing a dis­cor­dant tone to an elec­torate bat­tered by a pan­demic and wounded by racial in­jus­tice fol­low­ing the high-pro­file killings of Black peo­ple. He ze­roed in on the des­e­cra­tion by some pro­test­ers of mon­u­ments and stat­ues across the coun­try that honor those who have ben­e­fited from slav­ery, in­clud­ing some past pres­i­dents.

“This move­ment is openly at­tack­ing the lega­cies of ev­ery per­son on Mount Rush­more,” Trump said. He lamented “can­cel cul­ture” and charged that some on the po­lit­i­cal left hope to “de­fame our heroes, erase our val­ues, and in­doc­tri­nate our chil­dren.” He said Amer­i­cans should speak proudly of their her­itage and shouldn’t have to apol­o­gize for its his­tory.

“We will not be ter­ror­ized, we will not be de­meaned, and we will not be in­tim­i­dated by bad, evil peo­ple,” Trump added. “It will not hap­pen.”

The speech and fire­works at Mount Rush­more came against the back­drop of a pan­demic that has killed over 125,000 Amer­i­cans. The pres­i­dent flew across the na­tion to gather a big crowd of sup­port­ers, most of them mask­less and all of them flout­ing pub­lic health guide­lines that rec­om­mend not gath­er­ing in large groups.

The dis­cord was height­ened as the Trump cam­paign con­firmed dur­ing the pres­i­dent’s speech that Kim­berly Guil­foyle, a top fundraiser for the cam­paign and the girl­friend of Trump’s el­dest son Don­ald Trump Jr., had tested pos­i­tive for the coron­avirus while in South Dakota. Both Guil­foyle and Trump Jr., who serves as top surrogate for the pres­i­dent, are iso­lat­ing them­selves and have can­celed pub­lic events, ac­cord­ing to Ser­gio Gor, chief of staff to the Trump cam­paign’s fi­nance com­mit­tee.

Dur­ing the speech, the pres­i­dent an­nounced he was sign­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der to es­tab­lish the Na­tional Gar­den of Amer­i­can Heroes, a vast out­door park that will fea­ture the stat­ues of the “great­est Amer­i­cans to ever live.”

Amid the cam­paign head­winds, the pres­i­dent has sharp­ened his fo­cus on his most ar­dent base of sup­port­ers as con­cern grows inside his cam­paign that his poll num­bers in the bat­tle­ground states that will de­cide the 2020 elec­tion are slip­ping.

Trump in re­cent weeks has in­creas­ingly lashed out at “left-wing mobs,” used a racist ep­i­thet to re­fer to the coron­avirus and vis­ited the na­tion’s south­ern bor­der to spot­light progress on his 2016 cam­paign prom­ise to build a U.S.Mex­ico bor­der wall.

The event, while not a cam­paign rally, had the feel of one as the friendly crowd greeted Trump with chants of “Four more years!” and cheered en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as he and first lady Me­la­nia Trump took the stage.

But Mike Har­ris of Rapid City, who said he was a Repub­li­can, wore a mask and waved an an­tiTrump flag. He also was sport­ing a hand­gun on each hip. He said he was wor­ried the event would spark a COVID-19 out­break.

“I think it’s a bad ex­am­ple be­ing set by our pres­i­dent and our gov­er­nor,” Har­ris said.

Lead­ers of sev­eral Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes in the re­gion raised con­cerns that the event could lead to virus out­breaks among their mem­bers, who they say are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to COVID-19 be­cause of an un­der­funded health care sys­tem and chronic health con­di­tions.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rives Fri­day for In­de­pen­dence Day events at Mount Rush­more Na­tional Me­mo­rial in Key­stone, South Dakota.

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