WASHINGTON - Americans who turned out on the National Mall in Washington to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day ran the gamut from pro-Donald Trump to anti-Trump to mildly optimistic about the Trump-style celebration and a possible second term for the unconventional president.
“He loves our country,” said one supporter, decked out in a tank top emblazoned with “USA 45” (Trump is the 45th U.S. president) and a well-worn red, white and blue cowboy hat adorned with stars and stripes. “He stands for us United States citizens. He has brought pride back to being an American.”
Next to him stood a woman in a MAGA (Make America Great Again) baseball cap, who said Thursday, “I’m everything people think I’m not. I’m from California, Latina, immigrant family, and I love America.”
The two Trump supporters were surrounded by a group of compatriots decked out in patriotic clothing, singing songs and sweating together in the heat and humidity.
Caroline Sarajian brandished an “Armenians for Trump” banner. She explained why she wants to see Trump re-elected in 2020.
“He’s great for the country,” she said. “In every single way he’s promised, he’s delivered. And he can be trusted. His motives are clear. His motives are for the people.”
Asked what she thinks about Trump’s claim that investigations of his campaign’s ties to Russia amount to a “witch hunt,” she agreed vigorously.
“It’s a complete witch hunt right now that’s been going on for two years. The collusion delusion,” she said.
Different point of view
Not all on the National Mall Thursday were Trump supporters, however.
“I think it’s very clear that the president is politicizing a nonpartisan event, particularly by putting himself in the middle of it,” said Amanda Whitehead from Berkeley, California. “I’m here today because people on our borders are being held today in inhumane conditions for inhumane reasons, and not being given the help that I believe their country promises them. And that other people are coming from terrible, terrible situations and need assistance.”
David Barrows, dressed in a shirt and tie with a “Dump Trump” baseball cap, said, “I’m here to stand up for justice and democracy. I’m against what Trump stands for. I’m against how he treats the immigrants, separating children from parents and putting them in deplorable conditions on the border.”
He said he did not approve of Trump’s addition of tanks and fighter jets to the celebration.
“I’m against this event because it celebrates the military,” he said. “It celebrates violence over peace. It celebrates strength — the bad use of strength. ... The arrogance of the United States. I’m tired of having to be ashamed of my country.”
Here to celebrate
Others on the Mall said they preferred celebration to controversy.
“It’s not about him,” Phil Hind of New Market, Maryland, said of the president’s attendance at the festivities. “He makes everything about him. ... I’m more here for the show, though. It should be fun.”
Mother and son Carrie and Josh Wetzel came from St. Louis, Missouri.
“We’re here for America and for the Fourth of July,” Carrie Wetzel said. “We came and did the celebration [in Washington] 18 years ago. The celebrations were great and the fireworks were great and everything celebrated America. I don’t think there’s any need to add anything to that.”
Her son Josh was optimistic that a change in tradition might not be so bad.
Speaking before the president’s speech, he said, “If he can do this in the right way, he can really celebrate America and be a good thing for the Fourth of July. ... I feel like it could be more uniting [than divisive] if everybody could just come together and celebrate our independence.”