Tens of thousands of motorcyclists set to descend on the nation’s capital for a Memorial Day veterans event will have a new starting line for their ride, following the Pentagon’s decision to deny the group a permit.
The Rolling to Remember Ride, scheduled to take place May 30 around the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is expected to draw 50,000 or more participants, many of whom will be veterans and their family members.
The event is the successor to the annual Rolling Thunder ride which was held for 32 years to draw attention to American service members still missing in action from wars overseas. The new ride, organized by AMVETS, will not only highlight those POW/MIA troops but also challenge of preventing veterans suicide.
Organizers had the event cleared by National Park Service officials, Department of Transportation officials and local law enforcement agencies early this year. But earlier this month, after months of delay, Pentagon officials denied permission to use their parking lots as a staging area for the event, throwing logistics into disarray.
Republican lawmakers in recent weeks have blasted the Pentagon and White House for the refusal, calling it an insult to both the riders and their causes. AMVETS officials have been more diplomatic, citing frustration over the long wait for answers from military leaders despite months of lead time.
After hurried negotiations with city officials in recent days, organizers announced Wednesday that riders will be able to use the RFK Stadium parking lots as a staging area instead.
Because the site is located further away from the National Mall than the Pentagon lots, officials have asked riders to “refrain from driving through Washington’s residential neighborhoods” while heading to the staging area. Officials have said they will adhere to social distancing guidelines for the ride.
Only vehicles that come through the official staging area will be permitted on the parade route. The motorcycles will depart the RFK Stadium site at noon, and the parade is expected to last around five hours.
Full route details will be released next week, but several major traffic arteries for the city — including Route 395 West and Pennsylvania Avenue — will be partially closed for the event.
More information on the ride is available at the event web site. Participants are also asked to register at the site ahead of the event.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.