President Trump has declared that the decades-old Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride will return despite the organization holding what was announced as its final national ride on Sunday.
“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!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning before the ride.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019
However, organizers say the final decision hasn’t changed for now, but did not rule out the possibility for a return.
Rolling Thunder President Joe Bean declared that Sunday’s ride was the final ride, at least until they speak with Trump directly.
“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,” Bean told CNN.
Rolling Thunder spokeswoman Nancy Regg told USA Today on Monday that numerous donors have come forward pledging more than enough is needed to cover the annual ride’s costs, but it hasn’t changed the group’s decision so far.
“As of right now, this was our final ride, we are done in D.C.” Regg said. “We will keep going regionally.”
“Our mission is still our POWs and MIAs and making sure that veterans get the services they need,” Regg said. “But we’ve been at this for 32 years and our founder is 73 years old. It’s time for a change.”
Regg added that local rides would be more accessible to older veterans who can’t make the trip to Washington, D.C. for the national ride.
However, Regg would not completely rule out a return for 2020.
“A year is a long time, and I am not Artie,” she said, referring to Rolling Thunder’s executive director, Artie Muller. “We’re not going backward here,” she added.
On Saturday, Trump vowed to help the ride.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2019
In December, the ride organizers made the decision to end the ride after 31 years due to rising costs amounting to more than $200,000 for event clean-up and security, among various other issues attributed to local officials making it difficult for participants to access the ride.
“Reasons which determined our decision were the Pentagon Security Police/Washington Police officials continued lack of cooperation, increased harassment to our supporters and sponsors. As demonstrated this past Rolling Thunder ‘Ride For Freedom’ XXXI many of our supporters were diverted and prevented from entering the South Pentagon/Boundary Lots. Event staging costs have soared to $200,000.00 plus, lack of new Corporate Sponsor funding and the general public declined support of our event product sales (patches/pins/stick flags) in the Pentagon Lots. Financial factors are draining the organization funds if we continued this major costly annual event in Washington,” Muller wrote in a letter to organization members, as reported by Washington Examiner.
The historic Rolling Thunder national motorcycle ride has been held annually to raise awareness for POW/MIA troops.
The Rolling Thunder group was formed with the mission, “To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars.”
The first ride in 1988 had just 2,000 members. Thirty years later, the single day ride had more than 500,000 members, rivaling week-long events like Sturgis and Bike Week, with 500,000 to 700,000 participants.
The group says rides will continue to be held locally or regionally among their 90 chapters in 33 states.