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President Donald Trump on Friday railed against "angry mobs" that tried to tear down statues of Confederate leaders and other historical figures, warning thousands of supporters at Mount Rushmore that protesters were trying to erase U.S. history.
On a day when seven U.S. states posted a record number of new COVID-19 cases, the pandemic reached Trump's inner circle. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a senior campaign official and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., tested positive in South Dakota before the event, according to Sergio Gor, a Trump campaign official. Trump Jr. has tested negative, Gor said.
The event drew 7,500 people, packed tightly into an amphitheater. Many did not wear masks, defying the advice of public-health officials who have urged Americans to avoid large gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking underneath a famed landmark that depicts four U.S. presidents, Trump warned that the demonstrations over racial inequality in American society threatened the foundations of the U.S. political system.
"Make no mistake, this left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American revolution," Trump said.
"Our children are taught in school to hate their own country," he added.
Trump rallies against the 'angry mobs' trying to tear down statues at Mount Rushmore
Trump announced that he would create a "National Garden of American Heroes," which he described as a large outdoor park featuring statues of "the greatest Americans who ever lived." He did not provide further details.
In the nationwide unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, protesters in several cities have vandalized the statues of Confederate generals that led a rebellion against the U.S. government during an 1861-65 civil war.
Protesters in one instance unsuccessfully tried to pull down a statue of U.S. President Andrew Jackson outside the White House. Jackson, known for his populist policies, owned slaves and forced thousands of Native Americans from their homes.
'Angry mobs are unleashing a wave of violent crime'
"Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities," he said.
Trump has opposed proposals to rename U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate generals and vowed harsh punishment for people who damage statues.