(Minghui.org) Tens of thousands gathered in the U.S. capital on the 4th of July to celebrate the nation's 241st birthday. Falun Gong practitioners' Tian Guo Marching Band was invited to be a part of the National Independence Day Parade for the 12th consecutive year. As the only marching band composed of ethnic Chinese, they and the entire Falun Gong procession drew much attention from the spectators and were warmly received.

Falun Gong practitioners' Tian Guo Marching Band and float at the National Independence Day Parade in Washington DC on July 4, 2017.

The parade stepped off at 11:45 a.m. from 7th Street and Constitution Avenue. The 176 members of the Tian Guo Marching Band made for an impressive sight, dressed in blue and white costumes invoking the Tang Dynasty’s imperial court. Many spectators were impressed by the music and the spirit of the Falun Gong contingent, practitioners of a traditional mind-body spiritual discipline from China. Crowds stretching from 7th to 17th Street cheered for the band and their stirring music.

Mr. Howard Heppler enjoyed the “oriental touch” that the Tian Guo Marching Band brought to the parade.

Mr. Howard Heppler from Florida was excited about the presence of the Tian Guo Marching Band. “The music has a very oriental touch,” he said, “which is different from all of the other bands here. It sounds terrific! The members are very professional,” he added.

Mr. Adrian Tarasoff said that the Tian Guo Marching Band set a very high musical standard.

Mr. Adrian Tarasoff, who works in human resources in a military institution in Bethesda, Maryland, enjoyed his first opportunity to see the Tian Guo Marching band. “I am very impressed,” he said. “I was in a marching band when I was younger. This music is expressive, outstanding. They show everyone what a good marching band is supposed to be like.”

Chinese tourists were eager to photograph the Falun Gong procession.

There were many Chinese spectators on both sides of Constitution Avenue. Because Falun Gong has been brutally persecuted in China since 1999, it is impossible for them to see anything like the Tian Guo Marching Band in their home country. Many Chinese visitors excitedly snapped photos with their cell phones as the band marched by.

Mr. Donald Cotchen is proud of the United States' support of freedom of belief.

Mr. Donald Cotchen, who works in an industrial information company, has lived in Washington for 44 years. He often sees Falun Gong practitioners meditate on the National Mall. Mr. Cotchen remarked, “I know that this is a group of people with belief. I saw Falun Gong practitioners exercising outside of a court when I was in Texas. I could feel their energy, the serene and peaceful energy field surrounding them. You know that this is a group of kind, loving people. I learned from an online search that the Chinese communist regime puts them in prison just for doing the exercises.”

Mr. Cotchen believes that inviting Falun Gong practitioners to the parade is a testament to the country's upholding freedom of belief.