U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday vowed to defeat the “radical left,” in an Independence Day speech at the White House that condemned recent protests against monuments to historical figures as attempts to destroy the United States.
Trump, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, reprised themes from a speech he delivered in South Dakota the day before, by lashing out at those protesting statues of certain historical figures and other symbols they say celebrate racial injustice.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left: the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” Trump said, echoing remarks he gave at Mount Rushmore. “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms.”
Mr Trump claimed without evidence that 99 per cent of coronavirus cases in the United States were “totally harmless”. In fact, many states marked a record number of new Covid-19 cases. In Texas alone, 7,890 patients were hospitalised after 238 new admissions over the past 24 hours.
Trump, who has faced criticism over his handling of the pandemic, said China must be “held accountable” for failing to contain the disease.
The administration held a fireworks display over the National Mall as night fell after Trump’s speech, despite Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser’s warnings that the mass spectator event would defy health officials’ guidance during the pandemic.
Just steps from where Mr Trump spoke, peaceful protesters marched down blocked-off streets around the White House, Black Lives Matter Plaza and the Lincoln Memorial. They were confronted by counter-protesters chanting, “USA! USA!” but there were no reports of violence.
Millions of Americans have been demonstrating against police brutality and racial inequality since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. In addition to achieving police reforms in some cities, some protesters have removed Confederate statues and other symbols of America’s legacy of slavery.