- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2021

The Pentagon has denied a request from American Veterans (AMVETS) to use Defense Department parking lots for its “Rolling to Remember” motorcycle rally later this month, the veterans group said in a statement Monday, slamming Pentagon officials for allegedly refusing to engage in a dialogue about how to hold the event safely in the era of coronavirus.

The denial will greatly complicate the massive Rolling to Remember event, which began last year as the successor to the famed Rolling Thunder rallies of the last three decades. Rolling Thunder organizers have said they also tangled with Pentagon officials over logistical details of the gathering, among other reasons for the end of the yearly event.

For this year’s rally, AMVETS said that thousands of motorcycle riders planned to gather at the Pentagon parking lots before riding through Washington and past national war memorials on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. 

But AMVETS said that Pentagon officials denied their request because of COVID-19 fears and showed little interest in the group’s plan to keep all participants safe.

“The biggest disappointment in the Pentagon’s denial was that AMVETS was ignored for months as its professional staff in Washington requested numerous times an opportunity to hear the Defense Department’s concerns and present a COVID-19 safety plan to the Pentagon’s decision makers before rendering a decision,” AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown said in a statement. “In the end, the Pentagon decided to deny the application without any meaningful communication with AMVETS.”

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Despite the denial, AMVETS said that thousands of demonstrators still intend to descend on Washington over the Memorial Day weekend. The Pentagon’s vast parking area, the group said, “was ideal to ensure social distancing,” and at this point, it’s unclear exactly where the rally-goers will gather.

“There are no options with as much space and convenient routes to the memorials, meaning it will be more difficult, disruptive, and expensive than if the Pentagon parking lots were available,” said AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly. “We don’t have time to worry about who has said no to us, at this point. We are now squarely focused on pulling together everything we need in the final few weeks before ‘Rolling to Remember.’”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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