"I think what Trump's doing with the tanks, all the flyovers, I think it's great", said Brandon Lawrence, his face painted with the colors of the American flag.
White House officials sought to counter the criticism by stressing that the president would deliver a patriotic speech at the Lincoln Memorial during an event that he has billed as honoring the US armed forces.
"In June of 1775, The Continental Congress created a unified army out of the revolutionary forces encamped around Boston and NY, and named after the great George Washington, commander in chief", Trump said in his speech.
Democratic presidential hopefuls for the 2020 race and other House and Senate Democrats have spoke often about conditions of detention centers along the US southern border with Mexico, saying migrants are living in horrid conditions, something border control officials have denied.
Coast Guard helicopters, Air Force F-22 fighters, Marine V-22 Osprey helicopters, the modified Boeing 747 used as the president's own Air Force One, F-35s fighters and jets from the Navy's Blue Angels air show acrobatics team, were all on display. "Because the skies belong to the United States of America", he said.
Trump promoted the event all week, promising there would be tanks on display.
Medea Benjamin, a protester with the group, said the presence of tanks on the street scared her.
We the taxpayers are paying for it, for Donald Trump to use our military as a prop. "I will speak on behalf of our great Country!" he added.
The last time a US president spoke during celebrations in the capital was in 1951 when Harry Truman celebrated the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Photographs showed the size of the crowds in Washington for President Donald Trump's July 4 celebration.
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