EXCLUSIVE – Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., and more than 30 other Republican members of Congress pressured President Biden in a Tuesday letter to override the Pentagon’s decision to block a veterans group from staging a Memorial Day motorcycle rally in the Pentagon parking lot.
“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,” Mast 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.”
Pentagon Special Events confirmed AMVETS’ permit for the Rolling to Remember motorcycle rally on March 11 but later reversed its decision. The follwoing month, Mast wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urging him to “promptly approve” the permit.
Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Darrell Issa of California, Lee Zeldin of New York, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Chip Roy of Texas and Guy Reschenthaler of Pennsylvania, signed Mast’s letter.
“Moreover, nine states, local and federal agencies have already approved AMVETS’ permit for this year … your Administration is the only remaining barrier 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 me and many veterans across this country.”
The Pentagon has pointed at coronavirus risks for its decision.
“If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend. The department looks forward to supporting future events with AMVETS,” the Pentagon’s statement said.
Earlier in May, Mast also wrote to Biden asking him to reverse the Pentagon’s decision because “guidance from your own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that the risks of outdoor transmission are very low.”
“If you look at the facts that BLM 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 told Fox News’ “The Faulkner Focus” last week.
AMVETS’ national executive director, Joe Chenelly, told “The Faulkner Focus” that the event will still happen.
“We will have a demonstration on May 30 in Washington, D.C. We’re not going to be able to stage where this demonstration has staged for decades, but we will have a central staging area in the District,” Chennelly said.
“It will be safe, it will be coordinated, and we have a lot of protocols in place to make sure that the spread of COVID doesn’t happen there. And we are working with every other agency. There are a lot of agencies that are responsible for that region. We’re working with all of those. The Pentagon is the only one that wouldn’t work with us.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced Rolling to Remember to go virtual in 2020.
Mast, a 12-year Army veteran, worked as a bomb disposal expert and lost both his legs while deployed in Afghanistan.