President Donald Trump’s presence will be felt at this year’s July Fourth celebrations in Washington, D.C., but some of the details on exactly what will happen and how he will participate remain murky.
Trump plans to make a speech from the Lincoln Memorial on Thursday evening — the first time a president has spoken during the festivities since 1951 — before the Capitol Fourth concert on the West Lawn and fireworks show. There will also be a flyover by the Blue Angels and Air Force One, and did someone say tanks?
Trump confirmed there will be U.S. Army tanks at the July 4 celebration on the National Mall.
“And I’m going to be here and I’m going to say a few words and we’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “And we’re gonna have some tanks stationed outside.”
Ever since the president’s February tweet announcing his “A Salute to America” event, details about the plans have been trickling out.
Here are some of the things we do (and don’t) know about the festivities planned for Thursday.
Flyovers, military bands … and tanks?
According to the Interior Department, the celebrations on the Mall will “honor each of the nation’s five service branches with music, military demonstrations, multiple flyovers including a flight demonstration by the Blue Angels and much more.”
The Capitol Fourth concert begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, and gates will open to the public at 3 p.m.
Public entrances to the West Front of the the Capitol are at the North side of Capitol Square (Third Street Northwest and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest) and the South Side of Capitol Square (Third Street Southwest and Maryland Avenue Southwest).
Temporary street closures and parking restrictions will take effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, through Friday, July 5, at 4 a.m. A full list of road closures can be found on the Metropolitan Police Department website.
In addition to the flyovers by the Blue Angels and, according to media reports, a plane that serves as Air Force One, The Washington Post reports that Trump requested tanks or other armored vehicles be part of the festivities.
Trump has pushed for military vehicles as part of parades in the past but had not gotten a green light.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., says the prospect of tanks and other military equipment on the National Mall on July Fourth jeopardizes the infrastructure of the area and raises the prospect of the federal government not repaying the D.C. government for costs incurred.
“After we have worked for years with the National Park Service to refurbish the National Mall, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars, President Trump now proposes to have 60-ton battle tanks there, where they would likely do significant damage,” said Norton in a Monday statement. “These tanks, heavy equipment, and weapons of war have no place on the National Mall at all, particularly as we celebrate the Fourth of July.”
Pentagon officials reportedly had denied a request from Trump’s transition team to include heavy military vehicles in his inaugural parade. One concern was that the vehicles would cause structural damage to Washington’s streets.
The Interior Department moved the location from where the July Fourth fireworks will be launched from the Reflecting Pool to two spots in West Potomac Park and behind the Lincoln Memorial, according to an Interior release.
The show itself will begin at about 9:07 p.m. and run for about 35 minutes, creating a dramatic backdrop behind where the president will have given his speech and offering a premium vantage point for those in D.C.’s Wharf area and near the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington. It also opens up an area around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the World War II Memorial and Constitution Gardens for spectators.
The longer-than-usual fireworks show is being made possible by donations from two pyrotechnic firms — Phantom Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci.
Security and VIP seating
National Park service officials say security will generally be similar to previous years, with the exception of the Lincoln Memorial, where the Secret Service will handle matters. “There are likely to be more stringent requirements there,” Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said in June.
The Secret Service and White House are also handling the security and admittance to a VIP seating area located in front of the Lincoln Memorial, according to a news conference held by local and federal officials Friday.
A White House official confirmed the ticketed area would be for VIPs, friends and family, and members of the military but did not provide information about who was on the guest list.
Matthew Miller, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Washington field office, also did not have specifics on the guest list.
“The Secret Service is concerned with the safety of the event, [and] the White House is dealing with the issuance of tickets,” Miller said.
Feminist anti-war group Code Pink wants to get a permit to fly an inflatable blimp depicting the president in a diaper. The National Park Service says it is working with the group on a location.
Anti-Trump activists see a rare opportunity to confront the president in a public setting. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said she changed her plans to be in Cuba so she could attend the July Fourth celebration. “It’s going to be really hard for them to control,” she told The Associated Press. “We’ll see what kind of trouble we can get into.”
Protests by Code Pink and ther protest-related activities coinciding with the Fourth are not significant enough to cause extra concern, Metropolitan Police Department officials said at the conference Friday.
The department will be fully staffed on July 4, and that’s no different from any other Independence Day, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters.
“Every Fourth of July, everybody works,” she said.
Katherine Tully-McManus and John Bennett contributed to this report.