Flyovers, Military Bands … And Tanks? Here’s What We Know About the July 4 Celebrations

July 2, 2019by Chris Cioffi
President Donald Trump delivers remarks at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, during his 2020 campaign kick-off rally. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s presence will be felt at this year’s July Fourth celebrations in Washington, 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 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?

“This is going to be a fantastic Fourth of July with increased access across the National Mall for the public to enjoy music, flyovers, a spectacular fireworks display, and an address by our Commander-in-Chief,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a release.

Ever since the president’s February tweet announcing the 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 Trump’s “A Salute to America.”

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 “A Capitol Fourth” concert begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, July 4, and gates will open to the public at 3 p.m.

Public entrances to the West Front of the U.S. Capitol are at the North side of Capitol Square (Third Street, NW, and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW) and the South Side of Capitol Square (Third Street, SW, and Maryland Avenue, SW).

Temporary street closures and parking restrictions will take effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 2 through Friday, July 5 at 4 a.m. A full list of road closures can be found on the D.C. Department of Transportation 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 has not gotten a green light in the past.

The Defense Department 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.

Fireworks

The Interior Department moved the location of where fireworks will be launched from the Reflecting Pool to two locations 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 giving a premium vantage point for those in D.C.’s Wharf area and for those 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

Park service officials say that security will generally be similar to previous years, with the exception of the Lincoln Memorial, where 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 on 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.

Baby Trump

Advocacy 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 organization 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 Fourth of July 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.”

The protests by Code Pink and any other protest-related activities coinciding with the Fourth is not significant enough to cause extra concern, D.C. Police Department officials said at the conference Friday.

The D.C. Police department will be fully staffed on July 4, and that’s no different from any other Independence Day, Mayor Muriel Bowser said to reporters.

“Every Fourth of July, everybody works,” Bowser said.

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