With 4th of July celebrations muted by the pandemic, US President Donald Trump lashed out at China, the "radical left," and his opponents in the media. Texas and Florida reported record-breaking infection spikes.
As a crowd flocked to downtown Washington DC on Saturday for this year's Independence Day celebrations, US President Donald Trump used the event to go after political opponents and lash out against China.
"American heroes defeated the Nazis, dethroned the fascists, toppled the communists ... and chased down the terrorists to the very ends of the Earth," Trump said at the White House in his speech.
"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and people who in many instances have absolutely no clue what they are doing," he added, referencing the unrest triggered by the police killing of George Floyd, an African-American man.
Trump also pledged to "defend, protect and preserve [the] American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America,'' in an apparent show of support for the explorer whose statues have recently been defaced and toppled in cities across the US.
"We are on the way to a tremendous victory," he said.
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The country declared its independence on July 4, 1776, nearly three centuries after Christopher Columbus' first journey to the Americas. This year, Independence Day celebrations were subdued by the twin crisis of the pandemic and the protest movement against police brutality. The crowds attending the official "Salute to America" celebrations were noticeably thinner than in previous years.
A group of protesters marched near the White House as the celebrations got underway, decrying the killing of George Floyd in late May. They were confronted by a group of counterprotesters who chanted "USA! USA" but no violence was immediately reported.
Addressing the nation on Saturday, Trump restated his claims of China being responsible for the coronavirus pandemic.
"China's secrecy, deceptions, and cover-up allowed it to spread all over the world, 189 countries, and China must be held fully accountable," he said. He also targeted "those in the media who falsely and consistently label their opponents as racists."
"The more you lie, the more you slander, the more you try to demean and divide, the more we will work hard to tell the truth, and we will win," Trump said.
Bowser: You are invited, you don't have to go
The US authorities did not make face coverings mandatory for the July 4th celebrations, although the National Park Service was handing out free masks in Washington DC. The city's mayor, Muriel Bowser, warned about the infection risk but said she was unable to stop the event as it was held on federal ground.
"Just because someone invites you to a party doesn't mean you have to go," said the Democratic politician.
The Trump administration has been eager to maintain a festive atmosphere during the holiday weekend, but the mood was additionally muted by both Texas and Florida announcing record-breaking infection spikes on Saturday. Texas officials reported 8,258 new patients in the previous 24 hours, with Florida registering 11,458 new cases. The US still has more cases than any other country in the world, with the infection toll of over 2,836,000 and close to 130,000 deaths.
Trump dismissed the rise by once again linking it with the large number of testing conducted in the US.
"Cases, Cases, Cases! If we didn't test so much and so successfully, we would have very few cases," Trump wrote on Twitter.
However, more and more US states reported that the percentage of people who test positive was also rising, indicating that a growing share of the population is being infected.
This is an updated version of a previous article.
dj/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)