Protesters blocked a road leading up to Mt. Rushmore Friday evening, ahead of President Trump’s Fourth of July fireworks event.
According to local news outlets, about 150 demonstrators began gathering several hours ago and removed wheels from their vehicles to make it harder to remove them. Local authorities and National Guard were called on to clear the vehicles and start to disperse the protesters.
According to the Associated Press, the protest group was mostly Native Americans, who contest the monument itself, pointing out the mountains were taken from the Lakota people in violation of previous treaties.
Mt. Rushmore, showcasing Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, has come under fire as a national monument because of the former two presidents’ connection to slavery.
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump arrived in South Dakota around 6:40 pm local time.
“Mount Rushmore is in great shape and it’s going to be in great shape for centuries to come,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving Washington, D.C. “I’ll be making a speech there. I’ll be seeing a lot of people – a lot of different people – and I think it will be a fantastic evening.”
He also touted the recent unemployment rate, which fell to 11% from May’s 13%.
“So a lot of good things are happening, a lot of very powerful things are happening, and our country’s doing very well. I think we will have a V-shape if you look at what’s going on, if you look at the numbers all over. I think we’re going to have a very strong V-shape,” Mr. Trump said.
The president’s event has also faced backlash for bringing a massive crowd — which issues 7,500 tickets for the fireworks display — in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as the country struggles to keep cases from spiking during the reopening phase.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that social distancing and masks won’t be required during the event, but organizers will provide masks for anyone who wants them and screen attendees for COVID-19 symptoms.
Fireworks at Mr. Rushmore were canceled about a decade ago due to concerns about its large population of Ponderosa pine trees and an infestation of pine beetles, which make the forest more susceptible to wildfires.
According to local news outlets, about 150 demonstrators began gathering several hours ago and removed wheels from their vehicles to make it harder to remove them. Local authorities and National Guard were called on to clear the vehicles and start to disperse the protesters. About 15 people were arrested.
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