Local officials are speaking out about President Donald Trump’s plans for July 4 in D.C., calling on his administration to reimburse local governments for damage they believe could be caused.
Trump’s “Salute to America” will take place on the National Mall the same night as “A Capitol Fourth,” the free televised concert that has come to be expected year after year.
Organizers of “A Capitol Fourth” have made it clear that their event has no connection with Trump’s and that it will go on this year as usual.
Trump’s event will include military plane flyovers, a large fireworks display, a ticketed section in front of the Lincoln Memorial and even a display of military tanks. Trump will address attendees.
Some politicians are comparing what Trump has planned for “Salute to America” to displays of military might seen in dictatorial countries. (Late Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that 800 soldiers and airmen from the D.C. National Guard will assist with traffic control and crowd management.)
Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota who chairs the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Interior Department and the Pentagon have not answered multiple requests for details on how much the event will cost.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said D.C.-area locals are being robbed of a nonpartisan holiday.
“So [Trump has] already, by the way in which he has taken hold of this event, made it into a political event, and I think you will see resentment in the DMV about that,” Norton told reporters on Tuesday.
But the symbolism isn’t the only issue local officials have taken with the event. The 60-ton tanks could cause damage to the area’s already suffering infrastructure. To that point, the D.C. Council pointed out in a tweet Monday morning that the Defense Department has shared that concern.
Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 8th District, issued a statement Tuesday as well, in which he expressed concern about the harm tanks could cause to local roads and bridges, including the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
“Since President Trump is turning the region’s beloved annual tradition into a campaign event focused on himself, he should personally reimburse U.S. taxpayers and local governments for any damage to local infrastructure,” Beyer said in the statement.
Norton said D.C. is still owed over $7 million from the inauguration — and she is concerned about damage that could be done to the National Mall by the tanks.
“All I can tell you is they’re going to pay for any damage that is done,” Norton said.
On Wednesday, construction equipment and a huge stage took over the Lincoln Memorial as preparations for the “Salute to America” continued. Not far from the memorial, two M2 Bradley Infantry fighting vehicles awaited their final positioning as part of the planned military display.
National Mall visitors had mixed reactions ahead of the celebration.
Ian and his wife, who are visiting from Australia, said it was an exciting time to be in the U.S. “It’s going to be a great celebration. I’d love to see the tanks,” said Ian, who declined to give his last name.
Not everyone believes the event is a symbol of patriotism.
Karen, a cyclist who lives in the area, said, “I think it’s a waste of money set up solely to satisfy the ego of the narcissistic president.” She also declined to give her last name.
Jasmine works in D.C. and moved to the area two years ago. She said Trump’s event is a hijacking of July Fourth. “Now, it’s political — it’s just a game,” she said.
Hundreds of military personnel and local authorities will also be on site to assist with crowd management and traffic control.
Pentagon officials said that the tanks won’t be rolling but instead will be on display. It has made no overall estimate of the cost of the military’s participation. The Air Force said it costs $122,311 an hour to fly the B-2 bomber, which is to make the trip from its home at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and back. Officials said this will be considered a training event, the cost of which is already budgeted. They said the per-hour flying cost of the F-22 fighter is $65,128.
The Federal Aviation Administration is also suspending all flights at Reagan National Airport during the flyovers and fireworks.
Trump has wanted a military parade in D.C. after witnessing one in Paris on Bastille Day in 2017, The Associated Press reported.
WTOP’s Melissa Howell, Mitchell Miller and Jack Pointer contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.