From Mathew Harkins. Email him at mharkins[AT]borderstan.com.
As happens on every Memorial Day weekend, the Rolling Thunder Run is returning to DC. The Run may not occur in the Borderstan area but you’re likely to either hear the sound of motorcycles rolling through our city streets or see more than a few bikers around town. There were approximately 900,000 participants and spectators in DC for the event last year and there may be even more this year.
The First Amendment Demonstration Run
There are number of events happening through Rolling Thunder this year and the full listing can be found on their website. The main event though is the First Amendment Demonstration Run. Riders begin rallying at 7 am in the North and South Pentagon parking lots. Then at noon, the ride begins, heading north from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge, then along Constitution Avenue to Third Street NW, and then back along Independence Avenue before ending in West Potomac Park.
If you plan on attending as a spectator, be aware of road closures along the route. Some recommended viewing spots include Constitution Avenue and along the Memorial Bridge.
The History of Rolling Thunder
Rolling Thunder began back in 1987 when Corporal Ray Manzo visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC and learned that American servicemen had been left behind in Southeast Asia when the Vietnam War came to an end. Manzo quickly formulated the idea to host a motorcycle rally in DC in order to raise awareness of and remind everyone of the American POW/MIA. And what better day than on Memorial Day, the holiday meant to honor the men and women who died while serving in the USAF.
Manzo reached out to other veterans in the DC area, veterans who were activists and also experienced in dealing with DC legislation. Manzo and three other veterans he worked closely with became known as the founding fathers of Rolling Thunder. Bob Schmitt, a colleague of one of these founders, first uttered the words rolling thunder when he said, upon looking at the Memorial Bridge, that the sound of the riders “will be like the sound of rolling thunder coming across the bridge.”