More than 30 Republican lawmakers in Congress are pushing President Joe Biden to overturn a decision by the Pentagon that prevents a veterans group from using one of its massive parking lots to stage a Memorial Day motorcycle rally, a mainstay in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years.
“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. Brian Mast (R-FL) told Fox News. “That is why today, I along with 33 of my House colleagues are urging President Biden to reverse his administration’s decision and grant Rolling to Remember their permit request to use the Pentagon’s parking lot.”
“Moreover, nine state, local and federal agencies have already approved AMVETS’ permit for this year … your Administration is the only remaining barrer to ensuring this Memorial Day tradition goes as planned,” Mast and the Republicans wrote in the letter. “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.”
The gathering draws tens of thousands of motorcyclists from across the country each year and stages in a Pentagon parking lot.
A special events section of the Pentagon had approved AMVETS’ permit for Rolling to Remember on March 11 but then revoked it. Last month, Mast — a 12-year Army veteran who worked as a bomb disposal expert and lost both his legs while deployed in Afghanistan — wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to “promptly approve” the permit in April. The Pentagon blamed COVID-19 for the decision.
“If you look at the facts that BLM [Black Lives Matter] 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 said on Fox News last week.
In a previous letter, Mast said the Pentagon approved the permit “only to revoke that approval a week later, citing a ‘routing error’ and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The event is being put at risk by the refusal of the Pentagon to approve the permit in a timely manner.”
Mast said Americans enjoy freedom because of the sacrifice of the U.S. military, “but the Biden Administration seems intent on restricting that freedom, and now, even restricting Memorial Day ceremonies. Preventing a tradition like Rolling to Remember flies in the face of the freedoms that so many have died to protect.”
AMVETS’ national executive director Joe Chennelly expressed his disappointment with the decision on “Fox & Friends First” earlier this month.
“Our biggest disappointment with the Pentagon’s decision here was that they never gave us an opportunity, despite us asking many times, to be able to present a plan of how we would be able to meet at the Pentagon parking lot outdoors in a safe, responsible way,” Chennelly said.
“What, traditionally, this event has been all about is our missing in action. We have more than 80,000 Americans who are still missing in action since World War II,” Chennelly said. “We are committed to still having a central staging area. … We have a Plan B and a Plan C.”
Plan B is to stage near RFK Stadium, several miles away from Constitution Avenue.