May 26, 2020

National Capital Region Delegation Strongly Opposes Trump Plans For July Fourth Military Parade In D.C. During Pandemic

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress representing the National Capital Region today wrote to the Secretaries of Defense and the Interior to state their strong opposition to President Trump’s plans to hold a second military parade in Washington D.C. on July 4th. Despite public health and social distancing precautions in the nation’s capital, which has seen one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, the Trump Administration is reportedly “continuing to plan” the event.

The letter was signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), U.S. Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.), and David Trone (D-Md.). They wrote:

“We write to express our serious concern about reports that President Trump plans to hold a second ‘Salute to America’ for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.  Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans. Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic.

“The National Capital Region is currently experiencing some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders are in effect in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, with confirmed cases and deaths in many jurisdictions still on the rise. While we remain optimistic that these precautions, in addition to increased diagnostic and antibody testing capacity, will lead to decreased numbers in cases and deaths, it is likely that many businesses will remain closed and public gatherings will continue with restriction into the summer months.

“Given the number of individuals that would try to attend such an event, logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely.”

Full text of their letter follows below, and a signed copy is available here.

Dear Secretaries Esper and Bernhardt:

We write to express our serious concern about reports that President Trump plans to hold a second “Salute to America” for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.[1] Given the current COVID-19 crisis, we believe such an event would needlessly risk the health and safety of thousands of Americans. Further, this event would come at the cost of millions of taxpayer dollars while we are facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the pandemic.

The National Capital Region is currently experiencing some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay-at-home orders are in effect in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, with confirmed cases and deaths in many jurisdictions still on the rise. While we remain optimistic that these precautions, in addition to increased diagnostic and antibody testing capacity, will lead to decreased numbers in cases and deaths, it is likely that many businesses will remain closed and public gatherings will continue with restriction into the summer months.

Should the president continue with his plan to hold another “Salute to America” event, it would have detrimental impacts on not only those that live in the National Capital Region, but all those who travel in from other areas of the country to attend. Washington, DC is a popular travel destination for visitors to partake in Fourth of July festivities and last year’s “Salute to America” event attracted thousands of out-of-town visitors. If a similar gathering is planned this year, there is no doubt that it would exceed public gathering best practices and significantly increase the threat of community spread of COVID-19.

Given the number of individuals that would try to attend such an event, logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely. Public transportation is limited in the region to essential business only, including the closure of seventeen metro stops. There is reduced parking around the Mall in order to dissuade public gatherings. Enforcing safe social distancing and basic event protocol would put park, event security, and law enforcement officers at risk of contracting the virus, in addition to increasing use of personal protective equipment that still face supply limitations.

Last year, the Trump Administration spent over $5.4 million to put on the “Salute to America” event.[2] Secretary Bernhardt reported that the Department of Interior pulled over $2.45 million from its existing funds to help cover the costs, while the Department of Defense spent around $1.2 million from its budget. With the catastrophic hit that our economy has taken due to the COVID-19 crisis, it is not only financially wasteful to plan a second “Salute to America” event, but has the potential to again inappropriately pull funds from necessary accounts already under economic strain. The Administration, including your agencies, should be focusing on helping American families, not on a vanity project for the president.

We urge you to immediately suspend any plans of such an event.

Sincerely,

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