A small number of M1 Abrams tanks and other armored vehicles will participate in President Donald Trump's July Fourth celebrations in Washington on Thursday, US defense officials have confirmed to CNN.
Military police stand military vehicles on a flat auto in a rail yard, Monday, July 1, 2019, in Washington, ahead of a Fourth of July celebration that President Donald Trump says will include military hardware.
President Donald Trump has stolen the decades-old traditionally non-partisan Washington, D.C. Fourth of July celebration, attended by hundreds of thousands each year, and is turning it into a celebration of himself and his MAGA supporters.
In his showman's style, Trump has said that his makeover of the Fourth of July events will result in them being bigger and more spectacular than ever before. Trump's parade will be a lot more modest. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said she changed her plans to be in Cuba so she could attend the Fourth of July celebration.
A ticket-only area in front of the memorial is being set aside for VIPs, including members of Trump's family, friends and members of the military, the White House said. Others say Trump will politicize the festivities.
District of Columbia officials say the heavy military equipment could damage city streets. The Sherman was the backbone of the USA tank force in World War 2.
This year, Trump plans to speak at a military "Salute to America" that will feature military bands and flyovers from the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels and Air Force One, the modified Boeing 747 that transports U.S. presidents.
"We are referring everyone to the White House who will be making announcements about the event timeline and participants", said Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the Pentagon's top politically-appointed spokesman. "And it's going to be about this country and it's a salute to America".
Earlier plans were scratched after concerns were raised about the cost and infrastructure impact, with critics raising similar concerns about his plans for this week's holiday event.
Trump has harbored hopes of a military parade in D.C. since witnessing a Bastille Day celebration in France in 2017, according to media reports.
White House officials sought to counter the criticism by stressing that the president would deliver a patriotic speech at the Lincoln Memorial during an event that he has billed as honoring the USA armed forces.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the group expressed frustration with the permit, saying that it "is not in the location we requested - within line of sight of the Lincoln Memorial where President Trump will be speaking". That is why, for example, members of the military are not allowed to participate in political campaigns, and why Trump's first defense secretary, Jim Mattis, slow-rolled a White House plan for a Veterans Day military parade previous year.
Holmes Norton said, "We spent millions of dollars to fix up that Mall".
"The American people deserve to know how much of their money the president is spending to turn their July 4th celebration into a de facto campaign rally", Udall said.