A motorcycle rally prompted by a Muslim group's plan to march on the Mall will go forward on the day the D.C. area and the nation mark 12 years since the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks.
Officials with 2 Million Bikers to DC said that despite failing to secure a permit from the National Park Service, the ride through the D.C. area will happen — even if it takes all day.
"We apologize to D.C. residents, but they had plenty of time to help us with this rally," said Belinda Bee, national coordinator for the 2 Million Bikers to DC rally, referring to federal and local authorities. "We realized there was going to be a lot of traffic. We would have gotten through town in two hours. For some reason the powers that be in D.C. no longer feel Americans have the right to voice an opinion."
The motorcycle rally's Facebook page bills the event as a way to "remember those who were killed on 911 and honor our armed forces who fought those who precipitated this attack."
Nearly 3,000 people died after terrorists hijacked jets on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them into the World Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington. Another hijacked plane headed for the District crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
Ms. Bee said the rally was planned as a way to protest the American Muslim Political Action Committee's Million American March Against Fear, scheduled for noon.
"It was," she said, noting that the focus was eventually broadened.
"We didn't want a war," she said. "No. 2, Muslims get enough attention. It's time for America to get attention."
The Million American March Against Fear — originally called the Million Muslim March but rechristened after the name prompted widespread publicity earlier this year — was permitted by the National Park Service for 1,000 people for the location between 13th and 14th streets in Northwest, Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson said.
The nonstop ride would have required a police escort and closure of intersections and traffic lights, Ms. Johnson said.
After meeting with the D.C. and U.S. Capitol police departments, Ms. Johnson said, "we thought it would be too disruptive to close all these streets on a workday."
"We told them we can't stop them from using roads like anybody else, but they'd have to follow traffic laws if they come," Ms. Johnson said, adding that politics played no part in the decision.
"Any time we get a permit application we look at our resources. It has to do with what you apply for, not the applicants," she said.
Ms. Johnson said the permit for the march was received "quite a while ago," while the motorcycle rally event was submitted for approval on Aug. 27.
Ms. Bee said the final route for rally participants would be handed out Wednesday morning for security reasons. Ms. Johnson said the route on the permit application went from Fort Washington to the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon, over Memorial Bridge and to the Capitol via Constitution Avenue in Northwest.
The website for the Muslim rally says Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat, was among about two dozen scheduled speakers. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cleaver on Tuesday said the lawmaker had met with the American Muslim Political Action Committee but that he was neither speaking at nor attending Wednesday's event.
Isa Hodge, chief of operations for the political action committee, said his organization extended a formal invitation to Ms. Bee's group, "with an explanation of what we're actually doing, and what this march is trying to say."
"We do want to stand up and say we condemn violence, we're standing here against terrorists," said MD Rabbi Alam, founder of the political action committee. "We are pro-American, we are Muslim, we are pro-peace, and we condemn any kind of violence."
Asked if the bikers planned on joining with the Muslim march, Ms. Bee said "certainly not. We would never."
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