Protesters Block Entrance to Mt. Rushmore Ahead of Trump’s July 4th Celebration

FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2002, file photo, the sun rises on Mt. Rushmore National Memorial near Keystone, S.D. as the flag is flown at half staff in honor of the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. President Donald Trump is planning to kick off Independence Day weekend in South Dakota with a show of patriotism _ fireworks popping, fighter jets thundering overhead and revelers crowding beneath a piece of classic Americana _ Mount Rushmore. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch, File)

Protesters were seen on Friday blocking a highway in South Dakota ahead of President Trump’s appearance at Mount Rushmore for a July 4 celebration.

Demonstrators were seen gathering about three hours before Trump’s appearance, sparking warnings from authorities for them to clear the way.

Law enforcement was later seen putting on gas masks and launching smoke bombs into the crowd to try to disperse the protesters.

The July 4 celebration at Mount Rushmore has been mired in a string of controversies, sparking concerns over its health implications as well as drawing the ire of Indigenous groups.

Gov. Kristi Noem (R) said social distancing measures will not be enforced at the gathering, which is expected to draw about 7,500 people, raising concerns about community spread of the coronavirus as cases spike across the country.

“We will have a large event on July 3. 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,” Noem said Monday in an interview on Fox News. “We’re asking them to come — be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country.”

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SOURCE: The Hill, Tal Axelrod