US president Donald Trump and wife Melania held July 4th celebrations on the White House”s South Lawn on Saturday.
Hundreds of people attended, only a few appeared to be wearing masks.
The events came four months before the country’s presidential elections and Trump has been accused of dividing Americans amid the pandemic and racial justice protests.
In his speech, the president took aim at “the anarchists, the agitators, the looters” who, he claimed, won’t be allowed to “tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children”, referring to recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
“We will defend, protect and preserve (the) American way of life, which began in 1492 when Columbus discovered America”, he added.
The event took place despite concerns from the city’s mayor, but the crowds gathered at the National Mall for the air show and fireworks were reportedly thinner than those of last year.
On Friday, Trump began July 4th celebrations with a large rally at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Standing on a stage in front of the mountain carvings of former US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, Trump accused racial justice protesters of engaging in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history.”
“This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore,” Trump said.
Public health officials had urged Americans to avoid large crowds on July 4th, the country’s independence day holiday.
Coronavirus cases have been increasing significantly in the United States with case outbreaks attributed to a fast reopening and lack of social distancing following Memorial Day weekend at the end of May.
Many communities cancelled events and closed beaches.
Trump has held several large events despite the coronavirus crisis including in areas with large outbreaks of the virus such as Arizona. His campaign staffer who worked on the Mount Rushmore event went on to test positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that large rallies pose a large risk for coronavirus infection.
Confirmed cases are climbing in 40 states, and the US set another record Friday with 52,300 newly reported infections, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The US has had more than 2.8 million confirmed cases — about a quarter of worldwide infections, according to the tally.