“Ride for Freedom” in the Nation’s Capital Ends After 2019
The motorcycle group Rolling Thunder announced its 2019 First Amendment Demonstration Run in Washington D.C. will be its last. This is not due to lack of popularity. In fact, the popularity of the run is one of its biggest problems.
Organizers of the event have struggled to keep pace with the run’s popularity. In the past, the group used government building parking areas for staging. Disputes with police and government officials about parking lot usage has caused problems. Namely, it’s made the group hard-up for cash.
Rolling Thunder’s mission is to “educate, facilitate and never forget by means of a demonstration for service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War.” The group says its run has evolved to become a display of patriotism and respect for all veterans.
Riding for Freedom Ain’t Free
The government parking areas wouldn’t allow the group to sell merchandise. It needs to sell that merchandise to keep things going. According to Military Times, the cost of the run is over $200,000.
Pete Zaleski, vice president of Rolling Thunder Inc., told the publication that the popularity of the event has spurred security concerns at the Pentagon and other government areas. This has led to additional costs and complications.
“It really has exploded to beyond what we can support,” he told Military Times. “These costs didn’t exist 10 years ago.”
While the group will end its annual run in the U.S. Capitol, it won’t forsake its mission. There are 90 chapters of the group in over 33 states. Those chapters will do their runs to keep the work of the group going.
Joe Chennelly, national executive director of AMVETS, said the group’s valuable commitment to keeping the search going for those lost in the line of duty should continue. He hopes the news of the ride’s issues will spur people to act and help bring it back. The final ride is scheduled for May 26, 2019.