Millions of bikers from around the country roared into the D.C. area on Wednesday in a show of support for Sept. 11 victims and in solidarity against a controversial Muslim rally on the Mall.
The 2 Million Bikers to DC ride might have fallen short of 2 million strong, but the numbers were impressive. A line of shining chrome and steel bikes stretched about a third of a mile from the starting point at the Harley Davidson of Washington store just outside the District in Prince George's County. The bikers began departing from the store at about 10:30 in staggered groups of 50, stopped for traffic lights and taking an hour or so to get on the road.
The ride was complicated by the fact that federal and local authorities denied a permit that would have offered the riders a police escort through traffic — a sore spot with organizers who thought the denial was for political purposes.
"We're here for 9-11," said national ride coordinator Belinda Bee. "We are going to have a peaceful ride. ... But there are people who are sick and tired of their rights and liberties being taken away."
The National Park Service has denied any political motivation for refusing the permit, which ride organizers sought last month. The Park Service earlier this year granted a permit to a Muslim group planning a rally Wednesday to call attention to social justice issues.
The American Muslim Political Action Committee has scheduled a rally to draw attention to what they call unfair fear of Muslims after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Ms. Bee said the ride was originally set up to counter the rally and show respect for the victims of that day