photovs / iStockBy Lauren Lantry, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is promoting a big July Fourth celebration and fireworks display in the nation’s capital this weekend, with administration officials expecting large crowds on the National Mall and nearby, despite the mayor’s objections the event may spread the coronavirus.
The dispute comes amid spikes in coronavirus cases around the country – with over 50,000 COVID-19 cases reported in just one day this week.
“We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance. But this event will take place entirely on federal property,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news conference.
The city is currently in phase two of its reopening plan, which encourages its residents to continue to engage in social distancing, keep wearing a mask, and to avoid congregating in confined space with more than 50 people.
But Bowser said since she does not have jurisdiction over federal land, she could only urge D.C. residents to exercise caution this weekend, advising people to stay home if they don’t think they can remain physically distanced from others.
“Ask yourself, do you need to be there,” she said. “Ask yourself, can you anticipate or know who all is going to be around you? If you go downtown, do you know if you’ll be able to social distance?”
According to Department of Interior officials, 300,000 face coverings will be available to be handed out to those who come to the National Mall to watch the fireworks and flyovers.
But White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday noted that wearing a mask will not be mandatory.
“The president has said that we should follow our local authorities with masks, so that’s the decision,” McEnany said. “He encourages people to follow those authorities. CDC guidelines, I’d also note, say recommended but not required, and we are very much looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration.”
This event is the latest conflict between President Trump and the city’s Democratic mayor amid the pandemic and ongoing protests for racial justice.
In a climactic moment of tension between the two leaders in early June, and as protests erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd, Bowser allowed a “Black Lives Matter” mural to be painted in bright yellow letters on 16th Street, right near the White House. That street, unlike the National Mall, is under her jurisdiction.
Even before crowds gather on the National Mall to watch the flyovers and fireworks display, protest groups say they will hold a march calling for an end to racial inequality in the United States.
Organizer say a George Floyd Memorial March on Washington is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial and end at the Ellipse just south of the White House, where Trump will later be hosting his second annual “Salute to America” event.
That will be the second celebration the president will attend in two days. On Friday, he and the first lady travel to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota for a flyover and fireworks display, where GOP Gov. Kristi Noem has said social distancing will not be enforced, face coverings will remain optional, and crowds of over 7,000 are expected to gather, according to state officials.
“We’re going to have a tremendous July third, and then we’re coming back here, celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.,” Trump said on Thursday.
While the July Fourth fireworks are taking place over Bowser’s objections, the White House has scaled-down the “Salute to America” part of the celebration.
Trump had said in the spring that he wanted a repeat of last year’s event he heavily promoted, complete with multiple military vehicles placed at the Lincoln Memorial.
That event, according to the Government Accountability Office, cost taxpayers $13 million, double that of previous years.
The 2019 “Salute to America” also caused tension between the city government and the White House because the event required extra security and road closures beyond the already heightened security needed for the holiday events.
Despite the downsizing, this year’s “Salute to America” — moved to the White House South Lawn — will still have a military flair.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels will perform a flyover above the National Mall, and over 10,000 fireworks are expected to be set off during a 35-minute show, one of the largest in recent history, according to the Department of the Interior.
In addition to the event in Washington, the Pentagon said it will conduct military flyovers over Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore on Saturday.
Planes will begin the flyovers at about 4 p.m. over Boston and then work their way down the coast before joining other aircraft flying over the capital. Some 1,700 service members will be involved in supporting these events, according to the Department of Defense.
Thanking corporate donors in a tweet Wednesday evening, the president said the Saturday event will “without question, be a special evening.”
The Saturday flyovers over the National Mall in Washington are expected to begin around 6:45 p.m. and the fireworks display is set to start at 9:07 p.m.
ABC News’ Stephanie Ebbs, Luis Martinez, Benjamin Gittleson, Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.
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