Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) slammed the Biden administration for obstructing a permit in preventing the annual Rolling to Remember motorcycle rally, a 30-year-plus Memorial Day tradition for veterans from using the Pentagon parking lot for its staging area.
“Memorial Day traditions like Rolling to Remember have been granted permits by every administration, Democrat and Republican, for the past 30 years. The Biden Administration’s decision to end this Memorial Day tradition flies in the face of the freedoms that so many have died to protect,” Mast said in a statement to Fox News on Monday.
“We are blessed beyond words to be citizens of the greatest country on Earth and only live free thanks to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. But sadly right now, in Joe Biden’s America, it is easier to cross the border illegally than it is to get a permit to pay our respects to our nation’s fallen heroes.”
The permit, sought by AMVETS, a national veterans service organization serving the interests 0f over 20 million veterans and their families was confirmed by the Pentagon Special Events on March 11 but the permit approval would be revoked just a week later, citing a “routing error” in granting the approval.
It’s the same parking lot the huge event has been using for the past 32 years consecutively where thousands of motorcyclists gathered in the parking lot before and after the ride around the National Mall.
Joe Chenelly, national executive director of AMVETS said he reached out to Mast and other members of Congress earlier in April for help in persuading the Pentagon to approve the permit after the office refused to communicate with the group regarding its decision. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, Chenelly said he submitted the permit application last July for May 30 event and waited until March 11 when the Pentagon’s special events office granted the approval, only to then rescinded eight days later, saying they hadn’t made a final decision. He told the Pentagon that he needed an answer by mid-April, only to be ignored in holding up signing off on a simple decision.
Mast, a 12-year Army veteran, wrote a letter in late April to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to “promptly approve” the rescinded permit being sought by AMVETS that runs the Memorial Day tradition while demanding answers as to why the Pentagon was jeopardizing an event that has “honored our nation’s veterans for the past three decades.”
“The Pentagon Parking lot has been used as a staging ground for Memorial Day events for decades. AMVETS relies on this staging ground as it is the largest public parking area in close proximity to Washington D.C. and has proved an ideal staging ground for more than 30 years,” Mast wrote in the letter on April 20. “The event is now only a month away, and further delays could jeopardize this important Memorial Day event.”
After days ignoring Mast’s letter, the Pentagon on Friday finally released a statement saying “after careful consideration” they decided to officially deny grant the group the permit to allow thousands of military veterans to use its parking lot for a staging area for Rolling To Remember, citing COVID for its decision.
“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,” the Pentagon said in a statement Friday night announcing the latest decision.
The Pentagon added if “COVID-19 conditions permit” they would “gladly consider” granting requests for future events “as soon as” Labor Day weekend.
Despite many attempts in reaching out to the Pentagon in which they finally responded without letting the group present a plan to hold the outdoor rally in a safe manner, Chenelly said they are looking to Plan B for a central staging area near RFK Stadium.
“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,” Chenelly told “Fox & Friends First” Monday morning. “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. We are committed to still having a central staging area.
“We have a Plan B and a Plan C,” Chenelly added, noting that the group should know by the end of the week on whether RFK stadium pans out.
The coronavirus pandemic forced last year’s motorcycle rally to cancel and go virtually.