Rolling Thunder to End Annual DC Ride After 2019

The deafening roar of thousands of motorbikes riding through Washington, D.C., to honor service members killed in action or taken prisoners of war will be silenced after one more rally next year.

Rolling Thunder, which began in 1987, will hold its last annual ride on Memorial Day 2019.

"It has been a hard decision to make," Rolling Thunder founder and Vietnam War veteran Artie Miller writes in a letter he plans to send to supporters in January. "After much discussion and thought over the last six months, Rolling Thunder National Officers have concluded to end our 32-year annual D.C. Memorial Weekend event."

Organizers cited escalating costs and a lack of cooperation from the Pentagon and metropolitan police departments as reasons for ending the popular event.

Rolling Thunder Inc., the nonprofit group that organizes the ride, spent more than $200,000 to stage the event last year.

Number of issues

Pete Zaleski, national vice president of Rolling Thunder, told The Washington Post that in addition to the costs, the group was also having problems with the Pentagon seeking additional security, prohibiting the sale of merchandise and limiting the involvement of sponsors.

The ride begins at the Pentagon parking lot, passes over Memorial Bridge into D.C., circles the National Mall, and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Officially called the "Ride for Freedom," Rolling Thunder drew 2,000 riders in 1988, its first year. There were more than 500,000 riders in 2018.

Smaller events

Organizers said the ride will not be held in the nation's capital after next year's 32nd ride. Instead, there will be regional events organized by various chapters to honor those killed in action or who were prisoners of war.

They hope the smaller events will draw more attention at regional levels and redirect the focus to veterans issues.

Source: Voice of America