The United States marked an unusually bleak Independence Day on Saturday, with President Donald Trump basing domestic opponents and China – but praising the country's coronavirus response, despite a record-breaking case rate.
Across the country, the fears of the virus or parried Main Street parades, backyard barbecues and family reunions dampened a day when Americans typically celebrate their Declaration of Independence from Britain from 1776.
Instead to adopt a unifying tone, Trump – facing a tough reelection and eager to mobilize his political base – opposed protesters demanding racial justice after unarmed African-American George Floyd was killed by a white police officer.
"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, Marxists, anarchists, agitators, looters," Trump said.
Anti-racist protesters who have marched in cities across America are "not interested in justice or healing. is demolition, "he said.
Speaking from the lawn of the White House, Trump addressed a crowd that included frontline health professionals fighting COVID-19, which has killed nearly 130,000 Americans.
He accused China – where the outbreak occurred – of a cover that allowed the disease to rage across the globe, but hailed America's "scientific brilliance."  "We will probably have a therapeutic and or vaccine solution long before the end of the year," he said.
Some of the American leaders' sharpest words were for the media, which he accused of campaigning to smear opponents as racists.
"The more you lie, the more you slander, the more you try to demon and share, the more more we will work hard to tell the truth and we will win, "Trump said, with four months ahead of the election.
Trump's divisive address came when popular beaches on both coasts – normally packed July 4 – were shut down as California and Florida were suffering from alarming waves of COVID-19 infections. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents to "assume everyone around you is contagious."
 Photo: AFPTV / Loic PIALAT Miami Beach imposed a curfew and made masking mandatory the hostility, but some Florida beaches still remained open.
The beach at New York's Coney Island was also open and crowded, with few wearing masks.
Mark Ruiz accompanied his wife and two children, despite being "definitely worried" about the virus.
"I can't be home on the Fourth of July, I had to take my kids out," he told AFP. "We can't be in a bubble all summer."
Coney Island also hosted a special socially distanced version of the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest – won for the 13th consecutive year by Joey Chestnut, who set a new world record referring to 75 sausages in ten minutes.
Health officials have stiffened for a new spike in virus cases this weekend, which they see as a potential tipping point for multiple infections.
The United States virus death toll is rapidly approaching 130,000, about a quarter of the world's total.
Fireworks typically show a high point during the holidays, but an estimated 80 percent of events are canceled this year.
Washington hosted a fireworks display at the National Mall, and some said they were forced to come at a moment when the United States was both struggling with the virus and undergoing a historic bill on racism.
"It's time for us to stop boasting that we're super-special, that the world is going to follow, we two need to look inside to see what's wrong with us. We've never honestly asked ourselves about race in this country, "54-year-old Mary Byrne told AFP.
The protests have continued in many US cities since Floyd killed, and more than one score took place Saturday in Washington.