Court rulings weigh on 4th of July celebrations in DC area

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Washington DC celebrated Independence Day on Monday with some hallmarks of the nation’s capital: parades, festivals and protests.

This year, the 4th of July means for many a return to normal as virtual events gave way to in-person experiences. It also falls in the shadow of the monumental Supreme Court rulings on abortion, guns and the environment that have Americans concerned about the country’s future.

Demonstrators – dressed in red, white and blue – massed outside the Supreme Court on Monday to denounce the overthrow of Deer. c. Wade, while other protesters descended on the National Mall. About 100 abortion rights protesters dressed in green marched down Constitution Avenue, stretching the full width of the street.

“They count on us to tire us out, they count on us to be complacent,” said Ashli ​​Timmons, 21, of Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights. “I hope everyone will see this and be inspired.”

Some demonstrators took to the highways to voice their grievances. About 20 people sat in the road and blocked all lanes of the inner loop of Interstate 495 at the US 29/Colesville Road exit Monday afternoon. Maryland State Police said the demonstrators were protesting climate change and were dissolved in a few hours.

In a separate protest, a group of truckers calling themselves the Restoration Movement of 1776 — formerly known as the People’s Convoy — blocked traffic on Interstate 95 to protest the vaccination mandates. DC police warned of heavy traffic along Interstate 395 entering the district from Virginia due to the convoy.

Ahead of the holidays, DC police told travelers to prepare for road closures as new events return to the city. Transport authorities also warned that a reduced service on the metro would likely lead to long queues and hour-long waits at stations near the mall after the fireworks.

People ventured into the city as events such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the A Capitol Fourth concert reopened to the public after more than two years of coronavirus restrictions.

The National Independence Day Parade returned with marching bands from across the country, military units, floats and balloons.

Neha Sri arrived early from Delaware with her 11-year-old son Naman so they would have time to find a good spot in front of the National Archives. They had set up folding chairs and a rainbow umbrella to beat the heat.

“This is our first time here,” Neha said. “We heard a lot about this parade, so we wanted to see it.”

They planned to stay for the fireworks, but Naman was most excited about the events at the National Archives. He excitedly outlined the day’s program – enshrined in a bright red souvenir fan – which included a scavenger hunt and a chance to sign a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Trinisa Fung, 21, and Alessandra Del Rosario, 21, sat along a stone wall near the entrance to the Museum of Natural History, waving American flags. The two students met this summer at an internship and spent their day off at their first 4th of July parade in DC. Fung had seen fireworks at his home in Houston, but nothing as big as this one.

“It’s different,” Fung said as floats, cultural performances and marching bands marched down Constitution Avenue. “The diversity here is truly amazing.”

Del Rosario of Las Vegas agreed but said “the humidity is still something I’m getting used to!” They have a lot to visit on their bucket list for the summer – the Capitol, the Library of Congress, “the most touristic places” – and they planned to watch the fireworks from the Iwo Jima Memorial with more of friends.

“It feels like the city is coming back to life,” Fung said.

Kelly Silva, 38, sat in the grove of trees overlooking the Washington Monument in the late afternoon, surveying a picnic blanket and a box of chicken wings. Silva, who lives in DC and normally brings her family to watch the July 4 fireworks every year, said she was “happy because everything is back to normal.”

“It seemed like everyone was scared two years ago, but now everyone is back,” Silva said.

Silva said she felt safe despite only hearing news of the shooting in Illinois, where a gunman opened fire during a July 4 parade in a Chicago suburb , killing at least six people and sending two dozen more to the hospital.

“I hope it won’t happen [here] this year,” she said. “I see a lot of officers around.”

Silva’s two children were playing at the nearby National Museum of African American History, but she was saving their picnic spot under the trees for later Monday night. It was a prime location right in front of the monument and into the fireworks of the night.

“We can laugh and celebrate like before,” Silva said.

Takoma Park, which has held July 4 festivities for 133 years, welcomed residents for its first in-person parade since 2019.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be back,” said 37-year-old Takoma Park native Tara Marie Egan. “People missed it and we have a lot of new bands joining.”

Egan herself once participated in the parade as a Girl Scout and is now Vice Chair of the Takoma Park Independence Day Committee. She had been planning this since January. The 1.3-mile parade, dubbed “Takoma Park Together Again” this year, featured marching bands, drill crews, floats, art cars, costumed characters and veterans groups.

In a city known for its political activism, recent Supreme Court rulings were front and center for some at the Takoma Park parade.

“It’s great to celebrate our independence today, but it’s a bittersweet feeling with the erosion of women’s rights,” said Laurie-Ann Sayles (D), who is running for a council seat of Montgomery County, Roe vs. Wade being overthrown. “I am concerned about the direction of our country and want to make sure we protect women’s right to choose.”

In a nod to the nation’s ideal as a beacon of hope, George Washington’s Mount Vernon held its annual naturalization ceremony on Monday. A crowd of 50 immigrants – from places like Cameroon and Ukraine – cheered and waved American flags as they became citizens. When they stood up to sing the national anthem this time, it resonated differently with them.

With her right hand on her heart, Keisha Alfred, 41, sang the anthem for the first time. “I am no longer an immigrant or, as they say, a visitor,” said Alfred, originally from Trinidad and Tobago.

After 20 years of living in the country as a student and green card holder, Alfred said she could finally leave immigration papers behind whenever a company tried to hire her. Becoming a citizen in this political time is bittersweet, especially now that abortion rights are under threat, she said.

“I’m very proud to become an American citizen, but I feel an added responsibility to make sure we’re represented.”

With his citizenship certificate in hand, Alfred and another dozen new citizens registered to vote on the spot. “I have to make sure my voice is heard,” Alfred said.

Daniels reported from Takoma Park, Sanchez from Mount Vernon and Wu from Washington. Terence McArdle, Teo Armus, Caroline Pineda and Gaya Gupta contributed to this report.

James C. Tibbs