Battle tanks have arrived in Washington DC ahead of Thursday’s pumped-up Fourth of July celebrations, which will also feature flyovers by fighter jets but has sparked opposition from local city officials.
The military hardware is just one new element in a US Independence Day pageant that will depart significantly from the traditional non-partisan, broadly patriotic programs that draw hundreds of thousands of people to Washington.
While past presidents have traditionally kept a low profile on July 4, President Donald Trump plans to deliver a speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the military “Salute to America”.
“I’m going to say a few words and we’re going to have planes going overhead – the best fighter jets in the world, and other planes too,” Mr Trump said on Monday.
“And we’re going to have tanks stationed outside.”
Mr Trump’s grand plans have not gone down well with Washington’s Democratic-controlled District of Columbia City Council, which tweeted: “Tanks, but no tanks.”
— Council of DC (@councilofdc) July 1, 2019
Council officials fear the heavy military equipment might damage city streets. But Mr Trump was unfazed.
“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas,” he said.
The former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, was stronger in his condemnation. Mr Steele is a long-time Trump critic, despite being from the same side of politics, and accused the President of “the Putinisation of America’s birthday”.
You know this will be a hot mess. 1st it’s not a “Salute to America” but a salute to Trump. 2nd he’s been trippin since he attended Bastille Day in Paris, so buckle up cause we’re about to get the Putinization of America’s Birthday with a little Un on top! https://t.co/AbQIXVuyK5
— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) July 2, 2019
Also on Thursday’s agenda are an extended fireworks display and flyovers by Air Force One, the presidential Boeing 747, and the US Navy’s Blue Angels jet squadron.
The Pentagon has said the display might also feature M1 Abrams battle tanks, a B-2 bomber, F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, and the Marine One helicopter that transports the president.
Air traffic at nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport will be halted for more than two hours during the flyovers and the fireworks.
According to The New York Times, Mr Trump also wants the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines standing next to him during the display.
Big 4th of July in D.C. “Salute to America.” The Pentagon & our great Military Leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2019
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Mr Trump’s Independence Day remarks would pay tribute to “how wonderful this country is”.
“Our troops and military,” Mrs Conway said. “Our great democracy. And great call to patriotism.”
— Cole (@eloc8) July 3, 2019
Democrats have accused Mr Trump of hijacking the July 4 event to boost his re-election prospects in 2020.
They also question how much the day will cost the cash-strapped National Park Service. The cost of the boosted July 4 celebrations has not been revealed.
“It is unacceptable that the Interior Department is failing to inform congress about how it plans to spend taxpayer money to fund the President’s lavish July 4th plans,,” Democratic senator Tom Udall said.
Mr Trump has pushed for a military parade in Washington since he marvelled at the Bastille Day parade in Paris in 2017.
His administration postponed a march planned for Veterans Day in November 2018 after costs ballooned to $US90 million ($A129 million) – three times the initial estimate.