BY: Follow @LizWFB
Thousands of bikers arrived the Washington, D.C. area Wednesday for the anniversary of 9/11, overshadowing a “million Muslim march” that drew just a few dozen participants.
Participants in the rides said it was not about “motorcycles making noise against Muslims,” but about patriotic Americans showing remembrance for the 2,996 lives lost 12 years ago.
“Today is 9/11 and everybody should be thinking of those that were lost on that day, and everybody that has been lost since that day,” said Richard Deldonna, outside the Harley Davidson dealership in Fort Washington, Md., the launching point for the event.
“We have military men and women losing lives everyday, and we need to show America that we’re still strong, that we still support all of our services,” he said.
“This family—we’re all family—is patriotic,” said Matt Griner, from Columbia, S.C. “I was a fireman in Columbia, S.C. His son [pointing to another biker], my cousin, is in the U.S. Army, just came back from Japan, stationed in Texas and got orders three to four months ago that he was headed out to Afghanistan.”
“We owe it to be able to stand here and talk into that mic,” Griner said. “We owe it to those guys that died for us to be able to do that.”
Underneath many of the riders’ leather vests were stickers with the names of 9/11 victims. Dave Sien, a state organizer for the event, wore Mark Rosen, a 45-year-old who died in Tower Two.
When asked what drew him to the cause, Sien said bluntly, “American pride.”
“American pride and to respect our dead,” he said. “You know the respect that people died on American soil, one of the biggest attacks by Muslim Jihadists ever on American soil and we’re here to honor the people today that died. That’s what we did.”
The ride was originally organized to counter a “Million Muslim March,” sponsored by the American Muslim Political Action Committee. The march, in reality, only drew “a few dozen demonstrators.”
“It was the wrong day for the Million Muslim March,” said Rob, a biker who traveled from Georgia.
Al Bruno, who rode 8 hours from upstate New York, said it was an “atrocity” to have a Muslim event on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
But Bruno said that was only a minor reason why he felt moved to join the ride.
“Where I come from, 9/11 was very close to me. […] The planes flew directly over my house in route to the towers,” he said. “The Twin Towers are an hour and a half from my house.
“So, it’s something more than just motorcycles making noise against Muslims.”
The status of the event, which was organized by Belinda Bee, was in limbo after the group was denied a permit that would have provided a police escort for the bikers in D.C. However, thousands of bikers rode on as scheduled.
“We will ride, we have always said permit or not, we will ride,” Bee told the Free Beacon in an email on Tuesday evening. “We don’t need a permit to use the streets we paid for.”
The riders, too, were undeterred.
“We rode,” Sien said. “We don’t need no stinkin’ permit.”
“American roads, paid for by us as Americans,” said Stuffold. “We rode on them.”
“The D.C. permit was denied,” said Deldonna. “I’m from New Jersey. When we got to Delaware, Delaware was more than welcome to have us. They closed off 95 to allow us to do our thing.”
“And some of Maryland, the police were great,” he said. “It’s just in Washington, D.C. the politics there are not American. That’s my opinion.”
Concern over permits did not hurt the turnout, which one biker estimated as high as 100,000.
Even with thousands of bikers disrupting traffic throughout their route from Fort Washington, to Capitol Hill, and back towards Alexandria, Va., the riders received an overwhelmingly positive response on the roads.
“They’re pulling over on the interstate to wave and take pictures,” said David Price, who is stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. “It was really cool.”
“Even on the freeway people were honking their horn and waving,” said Tony, from Alexandria, Va. “I think they see since I’m a military veteran, they react to that more than anything else.”
Price was one of the many bikers who spontaneously joined the cause, making a pit stop at the Pentagon Memorial, which features a bench for each of the 125 victims there from American Airlines Flight 77.
“It just seemed like a good thing to do, a memorial ride, why not?” Price said, as he stopped to pay tribute at the memorial with a friend. “We’re both active duty Navy, so it felt right.”
Two FDNY firefighters rode down from New York City to the memorial to pay their respects.
“We’re New York City Firefighters,” said one, who asked not to be named. “We came down here just to pay tribute.”
“A lot of people when it happened up in New York came to us in our aid,” he said. “So we reciprocate and go to their memorials.”
Though there were no problems with permits, the firefighter said he did see local police towing bikes and ticketing.
“But that’s to be expected,” he said. “We knew that coming in.”
“So, we’re here, just obeying the traffic laws and running around, seeing the monuments.”