US President Donald Trump invited medical staff and soldiers to the July 4 event at the White House. (BBC)
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Washington - United States President Donald Trump has used an Independence Day address to vow to defeat the "radical left" as protests sweep the country.
Striking a combative tone, Trump said he would "fight . . . to preserve American way of life", while railing at "mobs" targeting historical monuments.
Ahead of his speech, Black Lives Matter protesters gathered nearby.
Trump's 2020 election rival Joe Biden said everyone deserved "a full share of the American dream".
The July 4 holiday marks the nation's declaration of independence from Britain in 1776 and is one of the most important days in the national calendar.
Historically presidents have used the occasion to deliver speeches extolling the virtues of unity. Last year Trump spoke of the "extraordinary heritage" of the country at an event with a militaristic theme that involved Air Force flyovers and tanks parked on display.
This year, Trump's address was again followed by a flyover involving various aircraft, including B-52 bombers and F-35 fighter jets.
Speaking from the White House lawn on Saturday, Trump took aim at protesters that he sees as anti-patriotic who have taken to the streets in the wake of the death in police custody in May of African-American George Floyd.
"We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters, and the people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing," he said.
"We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children."
Statues and monuments of historical figures associated with racism or slavery have been pulled down or removed amid the wave of protests - drawing Mr Trump's ire.
"Their goal is demolition," he declared.
Elaborating on a plan to create a “National Garden of American Heroes” featuring statues of renowned Americans, Trump said the country's rich heritage belonged to citizens of all races.
"The patriots who built our country were not villains," he said. "They were heroes."
After he spoke, protesters in Baltimore, about 40 miles (65km) north of the capital, pulled down a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus - whom Trump had mentioned in his speech - and rolled it into a harbour. (BBC)