17 GOP Attorneys General Back South Dakota’s Lawsuit Over Mount Rushmore July 4 Fireworks Cancellation

May 22, 2021 Updated: May 23, 2021

Seventeen Republican attorneys general have filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem against the Biden administration over its decision to deny a request to hold a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in July to celebrate Independence Day.

The Biden administration made the decision to cancel the fireworks display in March. Herbert Frost, a regional director for the National Park Service, cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a key factor in making his decision, stating that public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “currently recommends that large gatherings be avoided, particularly those in which physical social distancing cannot be maintained between people who live in different households.”

Noem is suing the administration over the decision, calling Mount Rushmore “the very best place to celebrate America’s birthday and all that makes our country special.”

Republicans Hold Virtual 2020 National Convention
In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem addresses the virtual convention on Aug. 26, 2020. (Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

Now her lawsuit has the backing of 17 attorneys general, including the top legal officers from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. In a court document (pdf), filed on May 21, the attorneys general called the Biden administration’s decision to cancel the fireworks display “arbitrary and capricious.”

“Given the importance of the Fourth of July holiday and the special role of Mount Rushmore as a national monument, amici States have an interest in seeing the fireworks display take place again this year,” the attorneys general said in the document, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota.

They argued that there is a strong public interest in holding a Fourth of July fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, while “the Department of Interior’s flimsy and unsupported rationale for refusing to allow a fireworks display is arbitrary and capricious.”

They argued that last year’s celebration at Mount Rushmore was held when the pandemic was worse and before vaccines were developed.

“More than seven thousand visitors attended, and contact tracing has failed to identify even one case of COVID-19 tied to the event,” they wrote.

Epoch Times Photo
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump pay their respects as they listen to the National Anthem during the Independence Day events at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, S.D., on July 3, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Park Service also cited opposition from local tribes as factors in rejecting South Dakota’s bid to display fireworks.

The attorneys general acknowledged tribal objections, but argued that “the mere fact that some people may oppose a fireworks display is not a sufficient justification for cancelling an important national celebration.”

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment following the filing of Noem’s lawsuit in April.

Following the announcement of the lawsuit, Ian Fury, communications director for Noem, told The Epoch Times via email that the governor “is going to do everything in her ability to ensure that we can celebrate America’s birthday with fireworks at Mount Rushmore.”

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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