Pentagon tries to cancel veterans group event in D.C. - bikers denied parking permit

AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Joe Biden tells us that he supports the U.S. military every chance he gets. He even ends his speeches by asking God to bless our troops. A very quiet Friday news drop puts that support into question. Why is Joe Biden trying to cancel the Rolling Thunder event in D.C. this year?

For the first time in its 32 year history, a parking permit needed to hold the patriotic biker event was revoked Friday though it was approved in March. What kind of lame flip-flop is this? The Memorial Day weekend event, titled Rolling To Remember, serves to raise awareness for thousands of unaccounted-for POW/MIAs and for the veteran suicide crisis. The event is staged in Pentagon parking lots, with thousands of bikers participating every year. A parking permit is needed.

The flip-flop is being blamed on the coronavirus pandemic and the “nature of the event.” How odd. Washington, D.C. is opening back up after long shutdowns due to the pandemic and the CDC’s latest guidelines state that there is no need for using face masks outdoors. This indicates that the pandemic is on the downturn. The bikers obviously ride outdoors and most are fully helmeted, too. Their faces are covered. Veterans and their supporters come from all over the country, many will be fully vaccinated. There is no practical reason for denying permission for this event this year. This is Joe Biden’s governmental approach – keep the public under his thumb as long as possible. This isn’t a public health decision, this is a power grab.

Denial of a parking permit doesn’t completely cancel the event but it complicates it. Now an alternative site must be found to stage the event. Up to 10,000 participants are planning to take part in the annual ride. The statement released by the Pentagon on Friday afternoon indicates it expects the event to be postponed, perhaps until Labor Day weekend.

Unfortunately, the department has disapproved AMVETS permit request. The department took into careful consideration all aspects of AMVETS request, to include the current Health Protection Condition status on the Pentagon Reservation; substantial community transmission of COVID-19 in Arlington County, Virginia; number of Americans fully vaccinated across the nation; nature of this event with its decreased ability to maintain physical distance; and large crowds in one location for an extended period of time. This event draws national attention and participation; therefore the risk of exposure from participants from other communities extends well beyond the National Capital Region.

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, and as always, we appreciate AMVETS’ support of our veterans, their families, and their communities, including promoting better awareness of veterans’ issues, as well as AMVETS continued support for our missing-in-action service members.

No thanks, is the response from the veterans. They’re looking at RFK Stadium as an alternative location.

AMVETS, who took over this annual event in 2020, say they have factored in the pandemic in its planning.

But AMVETS officials said they factored those issues into their request, noting that the spacious Pentagon parking lots would have allowed adequate social distancing for participants as well enhanced safety practices for all riders.

“In the end, the Pentagon decided to deny the application without any meaningful communication with AMVETS,” National Commander Jan Brown said in a statement.

Organizers said they are confident they can still hold a “safe, reasonable demonstration outdoors that incorporates social distancing, masking where appropriate, and sanitation stations” even without the Pentagon’s cooperation, although they acknowledged that finding another site on such short notice remains challenging.

This isn’t some group looking to party in the nation’s capital. AMVETS is a Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization. The annual ride serves veterans and their families in remembering prisoners of war and those missing in action. It also now serves to raise awareness about the rise in veteran suicides. Most of all, the group notes the lack of communication during this process.

“The biggest disappointment in the Pentagon’s denial was that AMVETS was ignored for months as its professional staff in Washington requested numerous times an opportunity to hear the Defense Department’s concerns and present a COVID-19 safety plan to the Pentagon’s decision makers before rendering a decision,” said AMVETS National Commander Jan Brown. “In the end, the Pentagon decided to deny the application without any meaningful communication with AMVETS.”

Ironically, the group’s ability to hold a safe event is the question though it is a charter member of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 Community Corps.

AMVETS is a charter member of the Biden Administration’s newly formed COVID-19 Community Corps, a campaign to increase vaccine confidence while reinforcing basic prevention measures.

AMVETS National Executive Director Joe Chenelly appeared on screen with Vice President Kamala Harris at the launch of the COVID-19 Community Corps April 1, as the Pentagon was still considering the application, which was filed in May 2020.

“The administration included AMVETS in this new group as ‘a trusted voice in communities across the United States,’ but the Pentagon wouldn’t have a conversation with us to share their concerns and give us the chance to address them before deciding to refuse our application,” Chenelly said. “If we had those conversations and still came to the conclusion that safety was not possible, we would have pulled our application ourselves. We told the Pentagon that.”

A last-minute decision delivered on a Friday afternoon that reversed an approval in March to stage an annual veteran’s event is not a good look for the Biden administration. Where’s the support, Joe? Biden and the Pentagon chose pandemic theatre over respect for veterans and their families.