SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – President Donald Trump will start its Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks on Mount Rushmore in front of a crowd of thousands, but even in a part of the country where many continue to support the president, the event has generated controversy and protests.
Trump he must speak at the event, which issued 7,500 tickets to watch fireworks that he viewed on Thursday as a "display like few people have seen". The president will likely enjoy a show of support, with the state's Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump at the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. But concerns about the risk of coronavirus and the danger of fires caused by fireworks, along with protests by indigenous groups, will also greet the president.
Republican governor Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, said that social detachment will not be necessary during the event and the masks will be optional. Event organizers will provide masks to anyone who wants and plan to track participants for symptoms of COVID-19.
The Republican mayor of the largest city near the monument, Rapid City, said he is expecting an increase in cases after the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.
"We will have thousands of people side by side at these events – someone in line to see a president and be able to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore – they are unlikely to be disqualified because they developed a cough on or before," said the mayor. from Rapid City, Steve Allender.
Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region have also raised concerns that the event could lead to outbreaks of coronavirus among its members, who they say are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of an insufficient health care system and chronic conditions. Cheers.
"The president is putting our tribe members at risk to photograph in one of our most sacred places," said Harold Frazier, president of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.
Some Native American groups are using TrumpProtest visit to Mount Rushmore memorial itself, pointing out that the Black Hills were withdrawn from the Lakota people against treaty agreements.
Protests are expected in Keystone, the small town near the monument. Chase Iron Eyes, spokesman for the president of Oglala Sioux, said the protesters would like to have their voice heard at the memorial itself, but it is not clear whether they will be able to get closer.
Security must be strict, with the road to Mount Rushmore closed. The governor's spokeswoman, Maggie Seidel, did not say whether the South Dakota National Guard was being deployed, but said organizers are making sure this is a safe event.
But several people who previously supervised the fire hazard at the national memorial said that firing fireworks over the forest is a bad idea that can lead to a big fire. Fireworks were canceled after 2009 because an infestation of pine beetles in the mountains increased the risk of fire.
Noem pushed for the fireworks to resume shortly after she was elected and enlisted TrumpHelp. The president dismissed fire concerns earlier this year, saying, “What can burn? It's stone. "
The National Park Service studied the potential effect of fireworks for this year and found that they would be safe, although it noted that in a dry year, a major fire was a risk. Organizers are monitoring fire conditions and deciding on Friday whether the fireworks are safe.
Trump made no mention of the fire hazard in new comments on Thursday.
"They used to do this for many years and, for some reason, were unable or prohibited from doing so," he said. "They just weren't allowed to do it, and I opened it up and we're going to have a tremendous July 3rd and then we'll be back here, celebrating the fourth of July in Washington, DC"
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