End of the Roar: Rolling Thunder to End After 2019
As of May 2019, the Rolling Thunder Memorial day motorcycle ride will end, according to the group’s leader, Vietnam Veteran Artie Muller.
The Memorial Day ride to bring attention to POW/MIA and veterans issues has been going strong for 32 years. But with skyrocketing costs, and little cooperation from both DC police and even the Pentagon, Rolling Thunder has been unable to obtain a corporate sponsor. So they will be stopping the annual ride, and encouraging the individual chapters to hold their own events in 2020.
The group’s “Ride for Freedom” event started in 1988 with just 2,000 riders. In 2018, they had over 500,000. It was a statement, especially during the Obama years, as news media did almost everything could to marginalize, or pretend there weren’t very many participants in the ride. It was a joy to watch the seemingly endless lines of motorcycles flying their flags, and hear massive roar of the bikes as they made their way through Washington DC. It was like a giant message: mess with us and you’ll be sorry.
In 2017, Rex Tillerson, then Secretary of State, rode in the event with the bikers.
The group used to convene in Pentagon parking lots, but have now been excluded from them, probably because of heightened security. DC police have harassed the riders with tickets and other things in the past.
Costs for the 2018 ride totaled more than $200,000, Muller said. The nonprofit hasn’t been able to recruit a new corporate sponsor, and Rolling Thunder didn’t sell enough merchandise, such as patches, pins and flags.
The money that Rolling Thunder does collect should be going toward the group’s community service branch, which offers financial help to veterans, servicemembers and their families, Muller said.
“We’re collecting money to help veterans, troops and their families, and spending $200,000 on a run? I can’t justify that,” he said.
In addition, working with Pentagon police and the city police department to organize the event has become more difficult, Muller said. Participants this year were prevented from entering certain Pentagon parking lots where they typically convene.”
AmVets plans to attempt to save the ride.
“This is too important to our veterans and really to all Americans to simply let it stop. These demonstrations and Rolling Thunder’s unbelievable work over the past 32 years has made a tremendous impact, keeping the search going for our missing and prisoners of war.” Joe Chenelly, director of AMVETS
Featured photo: provided