The White House announced that the event was still on after members of the House and Senate from Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. led by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., asked the administration to “immediately suspend any plans of such an event” in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.
“As President Trump has said, there will be an Independence Day celebration this year and it will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “The American people have shown tremendous courage and spirit in the fight against this global pandemic just as our forefathers did in the fight to secure our independence, and both deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year.”
Beyer’s letter claimed that crowds for the celebration would make the event too dangerous, as social distancing measures would be difficult to maintain.
“Given the number of individuals that would try to attend such an event, logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely,” said the letter, which was also signed by Maryland Senators Chris Van Hollen and Benjamin Cardin, House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and fellow Maryland Reps. David Trone, Anthony Brown, and Jamie Raskin, Virginia Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Gerald Connolly, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. The letter cited limited parking and public transportation among reasons for why the event would be a bad idea, as well as the cost to taxpayers currently dealing with an economic crisis.
Washington, D.C. is still under a stay-at-home order. While the city is expected to move into Phase One of its reopening this weekend, Mayor Muriel Bowser said there are currently no plans to grant permits for any large events, The Associated Press reported.
Bowser’s reopening task force recommended that even under the third phase of its reopening, events would be limited to no more than 250 people, with required social distancing. Larger gatherings would not be allowed until Phase Four, which would only happen in the event of a widely available vaccine or cure for COVID-19, or if the virus otherwise disappeared.
Last year’s “Salute to America” celebration drew massive crowds to D.C. for the Independence Day celebration, which included flyovers by every branch of the military, a display of tanks and other military hardware.
Democrats complained prior to the event, concerned about the cost and the possibility that the president would use the celebration as a platform to spread a political message. Trump ended up striking a non-partisan, patriotic tone in a speech that praised American heroes, including the Armed Forces and civil rights leaders.
Author: Ronn Blitzer