The Pentagon has blamed coronavirus health concerns for the rejection of a permit for the Rolling to Remember motorcycle ride to honor POW/MIA veterans, according to event organizers.
The event, formerly known as Rolling Thunder, is being organized by AMVETS and is held annually each Memorial Day in Washington, DC. This year, organizers expect to draw in an estimated 50,000 visitors who want to pay tribute to veterans.
Joe Chenelly, the national executive director of AMVETS, spoke to Breitbart News about the permit rejection and said the permit was applied for last May, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chenelly said once AMVETS applied for the permit, the Pentagon “wouldn’t communicate with us” and, to this day, “still haven’t really communicated with us.”
In early March, Chenelly said the Pentagon approved the permit, but he was wary of the approval because there were no meetings that typically take place in order to get safety protocols in place. Upon calling the permit office, Chenelly said the permit was confirmed and he was told to contact Pentagon police to work on conducting a meeting “in a few weeks.”
“I called the Pentagon police and said, ‘let’s work together,’ and for eight days we did that,” Chenelly said, noting that he had already began planning for other sites in fear that the Pentagon would back out over COVID-19 concerns.
“Once we got confirmed for the permit … we stopped working with them and then eight days later the Pentagon calls and says, ‘Sorry, we made a mistake, we shouldn’t have sent that to you. You don’t have the permit. We will tell you when we make a decision,’” Chenelly said, paraphrasing remarks from the Pentagon.
Upon asking who the “decision makers are” so meetings could be arranged, Chenelly said he received no response, even after formulating a well-thought-out safety plan regarding the coronavirus.
Chenelly said he received word from the Pentagon 28 days before the event notifying him that the permit request had been denied due to the size of the event and the fear of the spread of COVID.
Regardless of the Pentagon’s denial of a permit, Chenelly said the event will go on as a “plan B and a plan C” are in the works, telling Breitbart News that event organizers are also looking at Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Park as another staging location.
“Absolutely. We will do something. As a matter of fact, we were just at RFK’s parking lot this afternoon and we have a plan B and a plan C,” Chenelly said. “Plan B is to stage at RFK parking lot, but that requires a waiver from the district.”
“Plan C is staging around the National Mall in downtown D.C. on the public streets,” Chenelly added. “That doesn’t require a permit because this is a First Amendment event.”
Chenelly also praised the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, saying, “they’ve been fantastic” amid a potential growth in the number of event participants.
“We know people are coming for sure,” Chenelly said of the event.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said in a statement Thursday that if President Joe Biden’s administration does not act to ensure the permit is approved, he will introduce “legislation to ensure that it does not shut out these veterans.”
“I call on President Biden to reverse the Pentagon’s insulting decision to block patriotic Americans from organizing in remembrance of POW/MIAs in Washington, D.C. this Memorial Day,” Issa said. “Just days ago, President Biden hosted an outdoor drive-in political rally. The Rolling to Remember outdoor ride-in event is no less deserving of approval, yet was denied by the Administration.”
“If this decision stands, their priorities are backwards,” he added. “Now is the time to do the right thing. Memorial Day is weeks away. Approve the event permit and welcome patriotic veterans with pride. If the Administration does not act, I am authoring legislation to ensure that it does not shut out these veterans.”