Trump orders tanks for Independence Day parade

Image source, Mark Wilson
Image caption,
Two tanks and other military vehicles sit on guarded rail cars at a rail yard in Washington, DC on 2 July

President Donald Trump's plans to host a military parade on US Independence Day this week have left critics seeing red, rather than red, white and blue.

At his "Salute to America" on Thursday, Mr Trump will address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC amid a parade of military tanks.

But city officials have expressed dismay at the possible damage to roads at the 4 July event.

A congressman dismissed the celebration as a presidential vanity project.

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"We're going to have planes going overhead - the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too," the Republican president told reporters at the White House on Monday.

"And we're going to have some tanks stationed outside."

He said the event will "be like no other, it'll be special".

City leaders have spoken out against the idea.

"We have said it before, and we'll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks," the District of Columbia council tweeted on Monday.

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The Democratic-controlled council also posted guidance from the Defence Department about a veterans' event in November last year, specifying that "no tanks" should be used in order to "avoid damage to local infrastructure".

Mr Trump has ordered a flyover by the Navy's Blue Angels and the presidential jet Air Force One, the Washington Post reported.

He also wants the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines standing next to him during the display, according to the New York Times.

The military flyover will halt air traffic at the US capital city's main airport, Reagan National, for more than two hours on Thursday evening.

Airspace over the city will be closed again for an additional 45 minutes during an extended fireworks show.

The event will be open to the public free of charge, apart from a ticketed area for VIPs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Photographers have snapped images of two M1A1 Abrams tanks on a freight train in a railyard near Washington.

The tanks, which weigh about 60 tons apiece, were reportedly transported from Fort Stewart in the US state of Georgia.

City officials have expressed concern that the road surfaces will be damaged by the tank tracks.

Some also wonder whether the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River is strong enough to carry such weight.

Mr Trump told reporters on Monday: "You've got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks.

Image source, Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Image caption,
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at last year's 4 July celebration

"So we have to put them in certain areas, but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abrams tanks."

The president's reference to Sherman tanks caused some confusion, as the World War Two-era armoured vehicles have been out of service since the 1950s.

Defence officials said the Abrams tanks will be part of a "static display" on the National Mall in the heart of the city.

Critics of Mr Trump said his involvement in 4 July amounts to a partisan takeover of a national holiday.

"Risking damage to local infrastructure and dumping huge piles of taxpayer money onto the never-ending bonfire of Donald Trump's vanity," congressman Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said in a tweet.

Media caption,
President Trump at Bastille Day parade

"My constituents and the other people who live here overwhelmingly do NOT want this."

Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson likened Mr Trump's 4 July celebration to military parades in the Soviet Union, calling his event "repugnant".

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele tweeted: "You know this will be a hot mess."

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White House adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters the president'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."

It is not clear how much the parade will cost.

But Mr Trump's plans for a military display on Veterans Day in November last year were torpedoed after defence officials said it would cost about $92m - more than three times the original estimate.

The president has hankered after a military parade since he witnessed a similar display on Bastille Day in Paris in 2017.

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