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Trump at Rushmore: Protests, Few Masks, a Miffed Neil Young

Newser — Jenn Gidman

On the eve of the Fourth, President Trump gave a speech in South Dakota, at the foot of Mount Rushmore, and it wasn't a staid one. Fox News called it "fiery," the Guardian went with a similar take of "incendiary," while the New York Times deemed it a "divisive culture war message" and the AP noted the address (full transcript here) "[pushed] racial division." Trump turned much of his focus on recent protests for racial justice and the vandalism and removal of statues across the US, lamenting "cancel culture" and decrying what he called a "merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children." He also called for his supporters to rise up against what he referred to as a "new far-left fascism." The Times notes he barely referenced the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

More coverage:

  • Protesters were pepper-sprayed, and more than a dozen were arrested, before Trump's speech after using vans as roadblocks to Mount Rushmore, USA Today reports.

Demonstrators that included Lakota Sioux noted that the Black Hills of South Dakota are sacred grounds to Native Americans, and that the Trump administration hasn't been working in their best interest.

"We shut down Mount Rushmore," one Lakota activist said. "We put this place in lockdown for three hours and we did it in a good way."

  • 'Beyond irresponsible': That was the take of epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Celine Gounder, who blasted the event for its lack of social distancing and for not requiring masks as coronavirus numbers continue to rise in many states.

"This is extremely dangerous behavior and unfortunately, this has become so politicized where you abide by public health and scientific recommendations on the basis of your political beliefs, not based on the science," she told CNN.

"And people are really going to be harmed as a result of this."

  • Pyrotechnic brouhaha: Fireworks lit up the sky after Trump spoke, Mount Rushmore's first such display in more than a decade.

Forbes notes that's because there's been a ban on fireworks there since 2010 due to the risk of wildfire, though that didn't stop Trump from pushing ahead with the plan.

"What can burn? It's stone," he said in January of the July 4 plans in South Dakota. Thankfully, it appears nothing went awry during Friday night's show.

"This is NOT ok with me," one tweet from the Neil Young Archives read in response to a video showing one of his songs playing.

That message was reiterated in a second tweet, along with: "I stand in solidarity with the Lakota Sioux." The Independent notes Trump also played "Cowgirl in the Sand," though Young didn't reference that song.

  • Decree for a new 'garden': Earning special attention was Trump's announcement of an executive order to create a "National Garden of American Heroes," which he described as a "a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans who ever lived," per the AP.

Some of the statues he'd like in the park include such nonsurprising choices as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, and George Washington, as well as some more eyebrow-raising ones, including Billy Graham and Antonin Scalia.

  • Pushback from Martin Luther King Jr.'s family: Trump also referenced the civil rights leader in his speech, noting that "our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream" and that "we must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King." Bernice King, MLK's youngest child, responded in a since-deleted tweet: "A 1968 poll found that my father was among the most hated men in America. For speaking truth to power & confronting the very injustices we are fighting to eradicate today. And was assassinated. So to hear his words used in rebuke of those truly seeking a great America..."
  • And from her brother: Martin Luther King III had his own take, tweeting, "Despite the way Trump attempted to characterize my father this evening, here's what my father, Martin Luther King Jr., really said: 'The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.'"

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