A pair of armored Bradley Fighting Vehicles are on display in front of the Lincoln Memorial for US Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall in Washington DC, the United States, July 4, 2019. (Photo: IC)
WASHINGTON - Washington is hot on Thursday as thousands are gathering in the downtown for the country's annual birthday celebration which, along with traditional fireworks, will also feature battle tanks, armoured vehicles, a flyover of war planes and possibly Air Force One, as well as President Donald Trump's "Salute to America" speech this year.
Meanwhile, many are expected to come for protests including a planned US flag burning demonstration, a huge "Baby Trump" blimp and a 16-foot-tall "Dumping Trump" robot.
The president has been under partisan fire and public backlash over the costs of the event and allegations of politicizing a traditionally nonpartisan and nonmilitary event. It will be the first time in decades that a US president addresses the crowd during the capital's July 4th celebrations.
"SALUTE TO AMERICA, an all day event at the Lincoln Memorial, culminating with large scale flyovers of the most modern and advanced aircraft anywhere in the World. Perhaps even Air Force One will do a low & loud sprint over the crowd. That will start at 6:00 P.M., but be there early. Then, at 9:00 P.M., a great (to put it mildly) fireworks display." Trump tweeted early on Thursday.
"I will speak on behalf of our great Country!" the president tweeted, saying the event "is turning out to be one of the biggest celebrations" in the US history.
Democrats and liberal activists accuse Trump of trying to turn Washington's annual Fourth of July celebration into a somewhat campaign-style rally while supporters say the criticism is an overreaction.
The display of military equipment is expected to include two M1 Abrams battle tanks each weighing approximately 62 tons and carrying a 120 mm smooth bore gun, a .50 caliber heavy machine gun and two M240 machine guns, at least two Bradley Fighting Vehicles each weighing just under 28 tons and having a smaller 25 mm M242 Bushmaster gun, a TOW anti-tank missile, and a single M240 machine gun. The two tanks will be on stationary display during the event due to concerns they could damage city streets.
The US National Park Service diverted nearly $2.5 million in entrance and recreation fees primarily intended to improve parks across the country to help cover the Fourth of July celebration costs, according to local media reports. A USA Today report said a preliminary estimate for transporting and displaying the military tanks is about 870,000 dollars.
Independence Day is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.