On Friday, a group of mostly Native American protesters blocked the main road to the Mount Rushmore monument in South Dakota ahead of President Donald Trump’s appearance in the area for the July 4th celebrations.
Speaking at a pre-Independence Day event near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, US President Donald Trump blamed George Floyd protesters for waging “a merciless campaign to wipe out our history”.
The Mount Rushmore monument, created in October 1941, features 60-foot-tall faces of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Two of them, Washington and Jefferson, owned slaves.
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which was carved into the Black Hills (Paha Sapa), considered sacred by the Lakota tribe
The speech followed weeks of demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality across the US sparked by the 25 May death of an African American man at the hands of a white policeman in Minneapolis. During the protests, some demonstrators destroyed or damaged Confederate monuments and statues.
He pledged that the South Dakota memorial would “stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom”, adding, “this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced”.
POTUS also said that “those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny”.
Trump Lambasts ‘Left-wing Cultural Revolution’
He singled out American schools, newsrooms, and corporate boardrooms, where Trump said “there is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance”.
Slamming the toppling of monuments during the George Floyd protests, Trump argued that “one of their [protesters’] political weapons is cancel culture”, and that their actions can be likened to “totalitarianism”.
POTUS warned that those who damage “symbols of national heritage” would face “the fullest extent of the law”, referring to a recent executive order on protecting monuments that he recently signed. The order stipulates that those who target statues could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Pre-Trump Speech Protests
In the run-up to Trump’s appearance near Mount Rushmore, a group of mostly Native American protesters blocked the main highway in South Dakota leading to the monument.
Demonstrators were reportedly seen gathering about three hours before Trump’s speech, prompting warnings from the authorities for them to clear the way.
This was followed by local police officers launching smoke bombs into the protesting crowd to try to disperse them.
The protests came as leaders of several Native American tribes in the region expressed alarm that the pre-Independence Day event could result in virus outbreaks among the tribes’ members.
Tribal Leader Urges Trump ‘to Open His Eyes’
Some indigenous groups used Trump’s visit to protest the Mount Rushmore memorial itself, insisting that the Black Hills, where the monument is located, were taken from the native Lakota people.
Over 100 protesters, mainly Lakota, lined the road leading from Keystone to the monument as they held signs reading “You Are on Stolen Land” and “Dismantle White Supremacy”.