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30+ GOP lawmakers urge Biden to override Pentagon’s denial of vet motorcycle rally permit

The annual ride by Rolling Thunder as it crosses the Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C., May 24, 2009. (Pulicciano/Flickr)
May 11, 2021

Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), along with more than 30 other GOP lawmakers, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday urging him to override the Pentagon’s move to block a veterans organization from using the Department of Defense’s parking lot to stage for their annual Memorial Day motorcycle rally.

“I would have hoped that President Biden would have more respect for a Memorial Day tradition, which raises awareness to the 82,000 service members who are still missing in actions and that 22 veterans die by suicide each day,” Rep. Mast, who wrote the letter, said in a statement last week. “That is why today, I am urging President Biden to reverse his administration’s decision and grant Rolling to Remember their permit request to use the Pentagon’s parking lot.”

Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Lee Zeldin of New York, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Chip Roy of Texas and Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania are among the Republican lawmakers who signed the letter.

“Moreover, nine state, local and federal agencies have already approved AMVETS’ permit for this year … your Administration is the only remaining barrier to ensuring this Memorial Day tradition goes as planned,” the letter stated. “Therefore, we urge you to overturn the decision by the Department of Defense and grant a permit to AMVETS for use of the Pentagon parking lot. Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter that is deeply personal to myself and many veterans across this country.”

In March, Pentagon Special Events confirmed the permit for the annual Rolling to Remember Memorial Day event organized by AMVETS – a Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization – but subsequently reversed its decision citing a “routing error,” Fox News reported.

On April 20, Mast wrote a separate letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to “promptly approve” the permit.

The Pentagon has said the decision was made in large part due to “COVID-19 conditions.”

“If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend. The department looks forward to supporting future events with AMVETS,” the Pentagon’s statement said, according to Fox News.

“If you look at the facts that BLM can get a riot permit in Washington, D.C., with COVID going on at the exact same time, how do you not allow veterans into the parking lot, the 70-acre parking lot of the Pentagon in this 20-year plus tradition? Total politics in my opinion,” Mast told Fox.

The Pentagon parking lot has been used for 30 years to stage Memorial Day events like Rolling to Remember, an event that seeks to raise awareness of the 82,000 troops who are still missing in action, as well as the 22 veterans who die by suicide every day.

Even if the Pentagon refuses Mast’s appeal, AMVETS’ national executive director, Joe Chenelly, told Fox News that the event will still take place.

“We will have a demonstration on May 30 in Washington, D.C. We’re not going to be able to stage where this demonstration has staged for decades, but we will have a central staging area in the District,” Chennelly said.

“It will be safe, it will be coordinated, and we have a lot of protocols in place to make sure that the spread of COVID doesn’t happen there. And we are working with every other agency. There are a lot of agencies that are responsible for that region. We’re working with all of those. The Pentagon is the only one that wouldn’t work with us.”