One of the world’s largest motorcycle rallies – The Rolling Thunder XXVIII First Amendment Demonstration Run – has taken place each year since 1988 around the National Mall over Memorial Day weekend.
Hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists gather first at the Pentagon for the ride through the nation’s capital. Rolling Thunder started in 1988 to affect national policy that benefit prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Bikers from across the country take a several hour roll from the Pentagon, across Arlington Memorial Bridge, around the Capitol and back to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The seeds of the ride were planted in the fall of 1987, through a letter that appeared in the back of Outlaw Biker magazine, calling for riders to descend on Washington the Sunday before Memorial Day. The letter writer, Vietnam veteran Ray Manzo, talked the Defense Department into letting riders stage at the Pentagon parking lot and persuaded Washington, D.C., police and the National Park Service to let them rumble over the Memorial Bridge and around the Mall. Manzo knew it would be an awesome sight. If anyone showed up.
That first year, some 3,000 riders came for that first ride. By year five, it had ballooned into a massive rally of tens of thousands, with country-music star Billy Ray Cyrus playing at the end.
Also happening in Washington, D.C., on Sunday – The Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club-Maryland Mother Chapter commemorated fallen African-American Civil War veterans at the African-American Civil War Memorial. The event was part of the “Buffalo Thunder” motorcycle ride that is an accompaniment to Rolling Thunder.