Trump vows to defeat ‘radical left’ in Independence Day speech
US President Donald Trump has used an Independence Day address to vow to defeat the “radical left” as protests sweep the country.
Striking a combative tone, Mr Trump said he would “fight… to preserve American way of life”, while railing at “mobs” targeting historical monuments.
Ahead of his speech, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered nearby.
Mr Trump’s 2020 election rival Joe Biden said everyone deserved “a full share of the American dream”.
The 4 July holiday marks the nation’s declaration of independence from Britain in 1776 and is one of the most important days in the national calendar.
Historically presidents have used the occasion to deliver speeches extolling the virtues of unity. Last year Mr Trump spoke of the “extraordinary heritage” of the country at an event with a militaristic theme that involved Air Force flyovers and tanks parked on display.
This year, Mr Trump’s address was again followed by a flyover involving various aircraft, including B-52 bombers and F-35 fighter jets.
Speaking from the White House lawn on Saturday, Mr Trump took aim at protesters that he sees as anti-patriotic who have taken to the streets in the wake of the death in police custody in May of African-American George Floyd.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing,” he said.
“We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children.”
Statues and monuments of historical figures associated with racism or slavery have been pulled down or removed amid the wave of protests – drawing Mr Trump’s ire.
“Their goal is demolition,” he declared.
Elaborating on his plan to create a “National Garden of American Heroes” featuring statues of renowned Americans, Mr Trump said the country’s rich heritage belonged to citizens of all races.
“The patriots who built our country were not villains,” he said. “They were heroes.”
After he spoke, protesters in Baltimore, about 40 miles (65km) north of the capital, pulled down a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus – whom Mr Trump had mentioned in his speech – and rolled it into a harbour.
Many people in the US celebrate the memory of Columbus, who in textbooks is credited with discovering “the New World”, the Americas, in the 15th Century.
But Native Americans have long objected to honouring Columbus, saying that his expeditions to the Americas led to the colonisation and genocide of their ancestors.
Meanwhile, in a videotaped address for 4 July, Mr Trump’s Democrat challenger for the presidency in November, Joe Biden, said Americans “have a chance now to give the marginalised, the demonised, the isolated, the oppressed a full share of American dream”.
Mr Biden, who has accused Mr Trump of fuelling racial tensions, said: “We have a chance to rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country.” BBC