Last Ride of Rolling Thunder
Last Ride of Rolling Thunder
Washington, DC – After 32 years of riding to our nation’s capital in support of America’s military, veterans, POWs and MIAs, the annual Rolling Thunder “Ride For Freedom” will be permanently parked after the May 2019 event. Citing increased conflicts with Pentagon parking officials and annual rising costs to put on the weekend of events, RT leaders decided to “hit the brakes” following this next upcoming ride.
Gus Dante, Rolling Thunder board member, spoke to local news network WTOP in Washington stating, “We had so many problems in the last two or three years with the [Pentagon Police] and the parking facilities after we leave the Pentagon parking lot. And then it came to a boil this year when, in the south lot, we had not one motorcycle. In the year before we had 10,000 bikes,” Dante said. “In the main lot, they were being turned away.”
Police escorted the ride by various DC landmarks around the National Mall but was supposed to lead the procession to the Lincoln Memorial, where a stage had been set up for ceremonies following the ride.
“It cost us $60,000 just to rent the Pentagon parking lot, about $200,000 for the whole ball of wax — to promote the POW/MIA issue and veterans causes,” Dante said. “So that’s one of the main reasons. They just had enough.”
Rolling Thunder has been an immensely popular annual ride and weekend of festivities, with motorcyclists from across the nation riding in and converging on the Capital.
The event won’t die after the May 2019 ride, however. Dante said, “We are going to do it in our local areas, various states.” With over 90 RT chapters nationwide, the event will be conducted at the local level, with state or regional rides all taking place simultaneously.
Dante believes, as do many in leadership with Rolling Thunder, that localization will make the annual event more personal and can raise better awareness of veteran’s issues in the local media and communities. “Let’s face it, we got coverage for a few seconds in DC and that was the end of it,” Dante observed.
Rolling Thunder, Inc. Founder and Executive Director Sgt. Artie Miller sent an excerpt of the January 2019 letter that he will be sending to the group’s millions of supporters:
“Rolling Thunder® XXXII, “Ride for Freedom” will take place on May 26, 2019, in Washington, DC — the final Thunder Run in DC. This will be the last demonstration the organization does as a unit in Washington. It has been a hard decision to make, after much discussion and thought over the last six months Rolling Thunder National Officers have concluded to end our 32-year annual DC Memorial Weekend event.
As a result of changing times, the organization and Mission needed to be reorganized and reevaluated. 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 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.
We will continue the POW/MIA Mission through our ninety Rolling Thunder State Chapters across America coordinating demonstrations starting 2020 Memorial Weekend in their own states or joining forces with other state chapters. Hopefully, many supporters who could not make the trip to DC can participate in their state and we may get more media coverage on the state level on the POW/MIA issue than we received in DC. This will be the final mailing of our Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” Washington, DC. See our website rollingthunder1.com periodically for updates regarding 2020 State Chapter “Ride for Freedom” demonstrations. Remember our POWs/MIAs, our Troops serving and God Bless the United States of America! Hope to see you at Rolling Thunder XXXII, “Ride for Freedom” the last thunder demonstration in Washington, DC.”
Rolling Thunder was first established in 1987 as an effort to raise awareness for our Armed Forces’ POW/MIA issues, and to raise support for America’s veterans of all wars and conflicts. “This is a tribute to all the fighting men and women of the United States, the sacrifices they made, and it’s to honor them,” stated rider John Santillo of Vernon, New Jersey.