U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will speak to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night from Maryland’s Fort McHenry, site of the 1814 battle that inspired what is now the U.S. national anthem.The National Park Service announced Monday that the site would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for a “first amendment event.” The choice is in character for Pence, who quoted Abraham Lincoln in a video released Tuesday, and who has previously leaned on themes of American patriotism and the legacy of the nation’s early days.America is the Land of OPPORTUNITY! #RNC2020 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/KIMDm5SKlF
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) In this May 25, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart after participating in a Memorial Day ceremony at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore.Key’s song gained popularity as a patriotic ditty, especially during and after the American Civil War in the 1860s. It wasn’t until March 3, 1931, that Congress made The Star-Spangled Banner the U.S. national anthem in a resolution signed into law by President Herbert Hoover.The lyrics hide a complicated history with race. While a line in the first stanza of Key’s poem professes admiration for the “land of the free,” a line in the third stanza alludes to “pollution” left by the “foul footsteps” of slaves who fought for the British.Himself a slaveholder from a Maryland plantation family, Key argued cases against the abolitionist movement during his eight-year stint as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. He co-founded the American Colonization Society to send free Black people “back” to Africa, a movement that eventually resulted in the founding of Liberia.Played and sung at nearly every major U.S. sporting event, many professional athletes have refused to stand for the anthem, as is customary, in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. The anthem protests have been a common target for Republican critics.Pence himself, one of the Republican National Convention’s Wednesday headliners, is expected to give a robust defense of President Donald Trump with Fort McHenry in the background. His wife, Karen Pence, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will also speak Wednesday.Preparations for Pence’s speech hit a snag Tuesday when a forklift damaged a brick walkway at the site. The damage sparked criticism that the National Park Service had pushed through the special use event permit too quickly.This is what they were afraid of: The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks has been warning the NPS cutting corners at Ft McHenry for RNC event could lead to damage…and concerns mounting now that it has. Photos of damaged brick walkway inside the fort. pic.twitter.com/QEZqiMtLnE
— Kate Amara (@kateamaraWBAL) August 25, 2020The Maryland Republican Party, as the permit holder, is liable for damages and the associated costs.It was unclear how many people were set to attend the speech, but the city of Baltimore limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people due to the coronavirus pandemic. Protests, both in car caravans and on foot, are expected.