US President Donald Trump has railed against the "cancel culture" of those who toppled monuments during recent anti-racism protests, in a speech to mark 4 July at Mount Rushmore.
Mr Trump accused protesters of "a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children".
He condemned those who targeted statues of Confederate leaders as "angry mobs".
"We will not be silenced," he said.
The president, who has been heavily criticised for his handling of the US coronavirus pandemic, made little reference to the disease that has now claimed almost 130,000 American lives.
The US recorded its largest single-day rise in coronavirus infections on Friday, bringing the total to more than 2.5 million - the most of any country.
Masks and social distancing were not mandatory at the Mount Rushmore event, despite warnings by health officials.
The location, too, was controversial. Mount Rushmore features the carved faces of four US presidents, two of whom - George Washington and Thomas Jefferson - were slave-owners. It also stands on land that was taken from the indigenous Lakota Sioux by the US government in the 1800s.
Addressing Mount Rushmore itself, the president said the South Dakota landmark would "stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom".
"This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced," he told a cheering crowd.
With little mention of the surge in cases in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Trump dove head-first into the culture wars and away from any talk of unity. He railed against protesters throughout his remarks, calling them "angry mobs,” which he says pose a “growing danger.”
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children," Trump said. " ... Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America."
His speech, attended by about 3,700 people, came as many states are rolling back their reopening plans and as the country posted another record-breaking day in the number of diagnosed coronavirus cases.
Trump made only one, and brief, mention of the coronavirus pandemic at the top of his remarks when he thanked those who were working to defeat it.
“Let us also send our deepest thanks to our wonderful veterans, law enforcement, first responders and the doctors, nurses and scientists working tirelessly to kill the virus," he said.
Few people in the crowd were practicing social distancing or wearing masks Friday night. This comes as Kimberly Guilfoyle, the national chair of Trump Victory Finance Committee 2020 and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, tested positive for the coronavirus while in South Dakota.
"After testing positive, Kimberly was immediately isolated to limit any exposure. She’s doing well, and will be retested to ensure the diagnosis is correct since she’s asymptomatic, but as a precaution will cancel all upcoming events," Sergio Gor, chief of staff for the Trump Victory Finance Committee, said in a statement. "Donald Trump Jr was tested negative, but as a precaution is also self-isolating and is canceling all public events."