President Donald Trump on Friday celebrated Independence Day by defiantly holding a rally at Mount Rushmore amid the pandemic, using the monument to decry protestors who have toppled Confederate, patriarchal and colonial monuments from coast to coast.
As much of the nation has turned against its unequal system of justice and its bitter history of racism in the wake of George Floyd's death, Trump used the occasion to glorify American history's heroes and excoriate demonstrators who have ripped statues from their pedestals.
His declaration of dependence on America's polarizing history came as the country struggled with a surge of COVID-19 cases that reached the president's inner circle.
As crowds in red, white and blue stood shoulder-to-shoulder outside the Mount Rushmore National Monument, Trump denounced the nation's "cancel culture" that has aimed social media criticism at racists, the rich and misogynists.
Trump said this kind of criticism from the political left, which has cost some people their jobs and sent others to jail, was "designed to overthrow the American revolution."
"This is the very definition of totalitarianism," he said. "It has absolutely no place in the United States of America."
Trump said of defund-the-police demonstrators, "They think the American people are soft."
"Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders," Trump said.
He also announced an executive order that will establish a park for national monuments, describing it as "the national garden of American heroes — a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans to ever live."
Trump called out "social justice" protesters, who've enjoyed the support of a majority of Americans, saying, "They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced."
"We support the courageous men and women of law enforcement," Trump said. "We will never abolish the police or our great Second Amendment, which gives us the right to keep and bear arms."
A Native American demonstration earlier in the day denounced the United States' occupation of local Black Hills land that belonged to the Lakota people. Some want Mount Rushmore removed. Trump, they said, was also unwelcome.
A trio of passenger vans, some with wheels removed, was used as a blockade, but authorities cleared them with flatbed tow trucks before nightfall.
The president's rally and fireworks show was expected to draw thousands as the coronavirus pandemic continued to reach new heights, and medical experts advised against gathering in crowds on the holiday weekend.
Organizers said the event would be limited to 7,500 people.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, senior Trump campaign official and girlfriend to Donald Trump Jr., tested positive for coronavirus, NBC News confirmed Friday night. Trump Jr. has tested negative. Neither traveled with the president to South Dakota for the event.
Earlier this week, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, said she wouldn't require social distancing at the rally.
The event, including fireworks, was held despite the risk of wildfire. The National Park Service explained in a 2011 statement, "The unacceptable risk of wildfire prompted the suspension of the fireworks for the 2010 and 2011 celebrations."
In February, with support from Trump, the agency announced it was in the process of bringing fireworks back to the national memorial.
It was the first rally since Trump's event in Tulsa on June 20 when only 6,200 supporters showed up to a venue that had room for more than 19,000, the Tulsa fire marshal said last month.
Mount Rushmore, which features the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln as a "shrine to democracy," was completed nearly 79 years ago.
Noem said in 2018 that Trump once told her it was his dream to have his face carved into the monument.