This July 4, President Trump is finally getting the grand military display he has reportedly wanted since attending France’s Bastille Day parade in 2017. The “Salute to America,” scheduled to be held on the National Mall on Thursday evening, promises to be a spectacle. It has also sparked plenty of controversy.
Here’s what to expect:
What is happening?
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., President Trump will host an approximately hourlong event honoring the military at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. As part of the event, Trump will deliver remarks and will view a flyover of military aircraft. According to the National Park Service, which oversees the memorials and the National Mall, the performances will include the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the US Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” the Armed Forces Chorus, and the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
President Trump has promised “the biggest fireworks show Washington, D.C., has ever seen.” A National Park Service spokesman said in a statement the public will have “new, expanded access across the National Mall” to view the display, which will feature a collaboration of two fireworks companies. The display will run from 9:07 p.m. to 9:42 p.m., according to the park service.
There will also be a large display of military equipment, which has drawn criticism from those who say the United States should not engage in gratuitous shows of military might.
How much equipment are we talking?
According to the Associated Press, there will be Navy F-35 and F-18 fighter jets, the Navy Blue Angels aerial acrobatics team, Army and Coast Guard helicopters, and Marine V-22 Ospreys.
Additionally, 60-ton Army Abrams battle tanks are expected to be positioned “on or near the National Mall,” according to the AP. The tanks in particular have drawn the ire of critics and even the Washington, D.C., local government.
What’s the response been?
Critics have charged that Trump is inappropriately engaging in electioneering by handing out VIP tickets to family, high-dollar political donors, and other allies to a taxpayer-funded event. They’ve also expressed concerns over the cost of moving military equipment and the potential for damage to local infrastructure.
“President Trump’s attempts to make the annual Independence Day celebration in the national capital region about himself are appalling. Even worse, the authoritarian-style trappings he demands, including tanks, will come at a great cost to taxpayers, and threaten significant harm to local roads and bridges,” said Congressman Don Beyer, a Democrat who represents Northern Virginia.
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway pushed back Tuesday, arguing Trump’s event is open to all.
“This is a public event, it’s open to the public, the public is welcome to come,” Conway said.
Will there be protests?
Yes, the activist group CODEPINK has secured a permit to bring the Trump “baby blimp” to the area Thursday. You may remember the blimp, which is 20 feet tall and depicts Trump as an orange baby clutching an iPhone, from its recent appearance in London to protest Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom.
But it’s not yet known whether the blimp will be able to fly. The Guardian reported Wednesday that the permit allows the baby blimp to be filled only with air, not helium. CODEPINK organizers are undeterred and were seen carrying smaller balloon versions of the blimp in D.C. on Wednesday.
The weather could put a damper on things
As is typical for Washington, D.C., in July, heat and humidity could spur storms as the day goes on Thursday. Meteorologists are warning of the possibility of severe thunderstorms Thursday afternoon into the evening. Fireworks organizers have warned that the display will be canceled in the event of inclement weather.