President Trump announced that he will speak at Mount Rushmore, followed by fireworks, Friday as a part of an early 4th of July celebration. The event is slated to have over 7,500 attendees, raising concerns about social distancing concerns and fire dangers.
“I said, ‘You mean you can’t have fireworks because of the environment?’ ‘Yeah, environmental reasons.’ I said, ‘What can burn? It’s stone.’ You know, it’s stone. It’s granite,” Trump recalled. “So I called up our people. And within about 15 minutes, we got it approved.”
Even though these statues are rocks, there is a pine forest in the surrounding Black Hill Area. After seeing the ban of pyrotechnics in 2009 after the pine beetle infestation destroyed pines and created fire dangers, critics are concerned.
Bill Gabbert, former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore, says “shooting fireworks over a ponderosa pine forest, or any flammable vegetation, is ill-advised and should not be done. Period.”
This meeting at Mount Rushmore also goes against the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which gives the Sioux people exclusive access to the Black Hills area. Hence, many Native Americans plan to protest the event.
Ogalal Sioux President, Julian Bear Runner told the Guardian, “Trump coming here is a safety concern not just for my people inside and outside the reservation, but for people in the Great Plains. We have such limited resources in the Black Hills, and we’re already seeing infections rising.”
The Trump administration has also announced masks are optional and there will be no social distancing. Especially since the Sioux are already struggling with the pandemic, adding 7,500 people sounds like a 4th of July celebration event with high stakes.
“We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing,” Republican Gov. Kristi Noem told reporters on Fox News earlier this week.
Jalen Xing is a Writer at theRising and the co-founder of Students For Hospitals. You can pitch him stories at jalen.xing [at] gmail [dot] com.