The United States has marked an unusually sombre Independence Day, with President Donald Trump bashing domestic opponents and China – but praising the country’s coronavirus response, despite a record surge in cases.
Instead of adopting a unifying tone, Trump, facing a tough re-election and eager to mobilise his political base, railed against protesters demanding racial justice after unarmed African American George Floyd was killed by a white police officer.
“We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators the looters,” Trump said during a White House event on Saturday.
Some of the US leader’s sharpest words were for the media, which he accused of a campaign to smear 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, with four months to go until the election.
Across the country, virus fears dampened or cancelled Main Street parades, back yard barbecues and family reunions on a day when Americans typically celebrate their 1776 declaration of independence from Britain.
Trump’s challenger in November, Democrat Joe Biden, struck a sharply different tone, tweeting: “Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We’re all created equal. We’ve never lived up to it – but we’ve never stopped trying. This Independence Day, let’s not just celebrate those words, let’s commit to finally fulfill them.”
Trump’s divisive address came as popular beaches on both coasts, normally packed on July 4, were closed as California and Florida suffer alarming surges in COVID-19 infections.
The US virus death toll is fast approaching 130,000, roughly one-quarter of the world’s total.