Rolling To A Halt: Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally Ends 30-Year Tradition
May 25, 2019
Roll on, no more.
After a three-decade run, a veteran advocacy group will hold its last motorcycle demonstration ride — called "Rolling Thunder" — in the U.S. capital this Memorial Day weekend.
U.S. Marine Tim Chambers salutes to participants in last year's Rolling Thunder motorcycle demonstration. Jose Luis Magana/AP
The nonprofit that organizes the rally, Rolling Thunder Inc., was founded in the late 1980s to bring public attention to prisoners of war and those missing in action and to hold the government to account for veterans who never made it home.
"We signed basically a blank check that said, 'I'll give you up to – and including – my life to defend our Constitution and defend the American freedoms,' " Doc Stewart, the group's New England regional liaison, told NPR's Amy Held. " 'But the return is, you're going to ensure that I come home afterwards.' "
Every year, hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists converge near the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., then rumble through the city's downtown.
But next year's Memorial Day weekend will be a quiet one.
The main reason the organizers gave for calling it quits is financial; it costs them about $200,000 last year to hold the rally, WAMU's Mikaela Lefrak reports. A lot of that money went to the Pentagon for things like security, toilets and parking lot use, according to Rolling Thunder President Joe Bean.
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