“Embittered crowds” and “destruction of history”
On July 4, on the occasion of the U.S. Independence Day, Donald Trump spoke near the famous bas-relief with U.S. presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and attacked those who demolished monuments during the recent Black Lives Matter protests against racism.
Turning in his speech to the bas-relief that became one of the symbols of America, Trump said that the monument “will stand as an eternal reverence for our ancestors and our freedom.” “This monument will never be desecrated, the faces of these heroes will never be disfigured,” he promised supporters.
“Our country has witnessed a ruthless campaign to destroy our history, deprive our heroes of the glory, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said. ” “We will not be silenced!” The president added.
As part of the Black Lives Matter campaign around the world, including in the USA, many monuments to people whom activists consider to be involved in the slave trade or guilty of discrimination against blacks were demolished.
Including participants in speeches in response to the murder by police of black George Floyd, fighting with monuments to the generals and soldiers of the southern states confederation of the Civil War era of the 1860s.
In his speech, Trump practically did not talk about the coronavirus pandemic, for the reaction to which it has been criticized more than once and which has already claimed the lives of more than 130 thousand Americans.
On Mount Rushmore, Trump spoke to an audience of 7.5 thousand people. At the same time, despite the warnings of physicians, the participants in the event were not obliged to wear masks and observe measures of social distance.
Last Friday in the USA there was a new unprecedented surge in infection; total in the country 2.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus – this is more than anywhere else in the world.
The choice of location itself also caused mixed reactions, as two of the presidents pictured on Mount Rushmore – George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – were slaveholders.
In addition, this place is located on the ancestral land of the Indians of the Lakota Sioux tribe, which the American government took away at the beginning of the XIX century.
What else did trump say
The US President said that those who attack the symbols of national heritage will fully respond to the law. According to him, they face up to 10 years in prison – in accordance with the recent order on the protection of monuments signed by him.
In honor of Independence Day, fireworks were given to the music. Fireworks in this place have not been arranged for more than ten years after they were banned for fear that this could lead to fires in the forests of the Black Hills massif, where a bas-relief is carved.
In his welcoming remarks, South Dakota’s governor, Republican Christie Noham, accused the president’s statement of blaming recent demonstrators for trying to “erase history lessons.” “This is done on purpose to defame America’s fundamental principles,” she said.
What do Native Americans think?
Native Americans have criticized Trump’s arrival because mass gatherings, they say, are now a health hazard. They also disagreed with the idea of celebrating America’s Independence Day in a sacred place for the indigenous people.
Many native Americans do not celebrate Independence Day, because for them it is associated with the colonization of their lands and the loss of their own cultural freedom.
The bas-relief on Mount Rushmore was created between 1927 and 1941, however, the land on which it is located – the Black Hills massif in South Dakota – was expropriated from the Indians in the 19th century.
“The president puts our tribe in a dangerous situation by arranging a photo shoot in a place sacred to us,” said Harold Fraser, chairman of the Su tribe from the Cheyenne River reservation.
Before this rally, a group consisting mainly of Indians blocked the main road to the monument, with white vans spread across, which eventually led to a confrontation with the police.
According to the local press, the police, with the support of soldiers from the National Guard, used smoke bombs and gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
The vans were taken away, and several protesters were arrested after the police declared the blocking of the road an “illegal assembly,” the local newspaper Argus Leader wrote.