MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. - U.S. President Donald Trump kicked off the country's July Fourth celebrations Friday night at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, telling the crowd their children "are taught in school to hate their own country" and insisting that what he called a radical assault from the left needs to be stopped to preserve the American way of life.
Trump also warned the crowd that the demonstrations against racial inequality that have spread across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis in late May threaten the foundations of American government.
The president announced that he is ordering the establishment a "National Garden of American Heroes" with statues "of the greatest Americans that ever lived."
Trump did not wear a mask for his address, even though the country is experiencing a raging surge in the coronavirus pandemic. Most in the crowd did not wear masks either. There was also no attempt to socially distance any of the attendees.
Public health officials are concerned that the South Dakota event may end up being a superspreader of the virus, an event at which an usually large number of people are infected.
The president talked about each man -- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt -- whose likeness is carved into the massive mountain.
The president gave only the standard patriotic account of each man without any of the complicated portions of their lives.
He also did not mention that the mountain is sacred to Native Americans who now consider the site desecrated because of the carvings.
Trump said the growing social justice movement in the country "would in truth demolish both justice and society."
Trump also said to the cheers of the crowd that the border wall is being built. Building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico was one of Trump's campaign promises.
After his speech, there was a fireworks display, the first at Mount Rushmore in about 10 years.
Some politicians, environmentalists and activists had opposed the display because of the dry conditions surrounding the site. Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico said the fireworks could pose a threat to what she called the "fragile area" and to firefighters, if a wildfire were started.