Democrats urge Trump: No July 4 speech on National Mall

Fireworks, including these seen above the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol in 2013, are an annual Fourth of July tradition in Washington (AFP Photo/MARK WILSON)

Washington (AFP) - Democrats urged President Donald Trump Thursday to drop plans to give a July 4 speech on the National Mall, saying it would look like a campaign rally on a holiday that is traditionally apolitical.

Back in February Trump tweeted that his administration would host "A Salute To America," an independence day celebration which he predicted would be "one of the biggest gatherings in the history of Washington, DC."

The event, he said, would be held at the Lincoln Memorial on the west end of the National Mall and feature a fireworks display, entertainment, "and an address by your favorite President, me!"

With less than a month to go before the holiday, three House Democrats including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote the president to say they were "deeply troubled" that Trump intended to hold an event coinciding with the annual festivities.

"For decades, the Fourth of July on the National Mall has been non-partisan and apolitical," a time to celebrate America's founding and reflect on the "sacrifices" by men and women who helped win US independence, the lawmakers wrote.

"It is, therefore, unfortunate that you are considering a conflicting event, which could create the appearance of a televised, partisan campaign rally on the Mall at public expense."

Trump's February announcement came months after he abandoned his idea for a huge military parade in Washington.

After viewing the grandeur of a Bastille Day parade in Paris in 2017 in the company of President Emmanuel Macron, Trump pushed for an equally impressive Veterans Day parade in Washington, with marching soldiers, convoys of armored vehicles and roaring overflights by fighter jets.

But his military advisors reportedly urged against it, particularly after an estimate surfaced that the event could cost taxpayers as much as $92 million.

The Lincoln Memorial site, where Trump hopes to speak, was the scene of one of the largest gatherings in US capital history -- the celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

It drew an estimated 250,000 people.