Protesters block a road leading to Mount Rushmore on July 3, 2020, prior to a fireworks display attended by then-President Donald Trump. (Courtesy of Willi White/NDN Collective)
Protesters physically clashed with law enforcement officers the last time there was a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, but state officials are telling the federal government there’s no reason to believe something similar would happen again.
The state Department of Tourism applied Wednesday to the U.S. Department of the Interior for a special use permit to conduct a fireworks display next year, on or around the Fourth of July. The Interior Department includes the National Park Service, which manages Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
The application form includes a series of yes-or-no questions. One of the questions asks, “Is there any reason to believe there will be attempts to disrupt, protest or prevent your event?” The state Tourism Department checked the box for “no.”
The most recent fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, which was attended by then-President Donald Trump, was on July 3, 2020. Protesters blocked a checkpoint for the ticketed event and engaged in a physical altercation with sheriff’s deputies and National Guard soldiers.
Twenty people were arrested on various charges that were later dropped after an agreement was reached with prosecutors. The protesters criticized Trump’s policies and advocated for the return of land that Native Americans lost to broken treaties, including the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.
Each year since, the Department of the Interior has rejected the state’s fireworks permit applications. Gov. Kristi Noem has sued, unsuccessfully, to overturn the decisions.
Noem announced the state’s latest application Wednesday, saying in a news release that she will “keep fighting.”
“The Biden administration has consistently denied us the ability to celebrate our nation’s freedom with fireworks,” Noem said.
State Tourism Department spokesperson Katlyn Svendsen fulfilled South Dakota Searchlight’s request for a copy of the most recent application Wednesday, but did not immediately respond to further questions.
Prior to Noem’s collaboration with Trump to bring fireworks back to Mount Rushmore in 2020, there hadn’t been a fireworks display at the memorial in more than a decade. Federal officials had ended the displays because of wildfires started by fireworks embers falling in the surrounding forest, litter from exploded fireworks that lingered for years afterward, and groundwater pollution caused by chemicals in the fireworks.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.