Rolling Thunder Bikers Make Last Ride through DC, but Trump Claims They’ll Be Back Next Year
President Donald Trump is the last remaining hope for Rolling Thunder bikers who just declared that this Memorial Day celebration was their last one due to financial constraints.
The annual demonstration, which began in 1988, is held to support fallen veterans and prisoners of war in Washington, D.C. It was initially started after the Vietnam war to bring awareness to still-missing troops and push the government to account for them.
This year, over a hundred thousand people gathered along the path which began at the Pentagon, passed over a D.C. bridge and ended at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. For a price, the Pentagon allowed attendees the use of its parking lot, facilities and cleanup services.
According to the Time, the Pentagon has continuously increased the charges to hold the event, and it is no longer feasible to pay such a large amount for the rally when they are also collecting money to assist veterans, active military members, and military families.
Last year, the event reportedly cost $200,000, Artie Muller, founder and executive director of Rolling Thunder said. In addition to the Pentagon costs, the amount also covers security detail.
Muller said that he could no longer justify the six-figure amount, and he and others were "tired of the harassment." As such, the biker group would not be returning next year.
The director also addressed a tweet from President Donald Trump in response to the news. On Sunday, the president wrote:
"The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be, & where they should be. Have a wonderful time today. Thank you to our great men & women of the Pentagon for working it out!"
“I know he means well, but I don’t know what the story is with them working it out with us. There’d have to be a lot of discussion and a lot of changes for everybody that comes here and our organization that helps put this together.”
President of Rolling Thunder, Joe Bean, is also unaware of what exactly Trump has in mind to change things. He confirmed to CNN that "this is our final ride in Washington, DC. Until we can get into the White House and talk to President Trump and see what he can do for us -- this is our final ride in Washington."
Trump, who was all the way in Japan when he spoke on the matter, initially wrote a tweet on Saturday which expressed his dismay that the bikers had decided to end their annual run.
"Can't believe that Rolling Thunder would be given a hard time with permits in Washington, D.C. They are great Patriots who I have gotten to know and see in action. They love our Country and love our Flag. If I can help, I will!"
The organization, which was named after a bombing operation by the U.S. during the Vietnam war, pledged to continue doing smaller demonstrations to bring awareness to veterans as they end their 32-year-long run.
The president began his memorial weekend celebration alongside his wife Melania Trump by planting U.S. flags at the Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday.
Third Infantry servicemen stood nearby as the president and the first lady dug the American flags into the ground. Other military personnel also took part in the "Flags In" event, a practice that began back in 1948.