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9/11 D.C. motorcycle rally set despite no permit

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Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Thousands of bikers, many from Pennsylvania, say they will converge on the nation's capital Wednesday to honor those killed on 9/11 and in the war on terror the same day as a Muslim-organized event, even though the bikers were denied a permit for their rolling rally.

In its denial, the National Park Service said, “It was a weekday, and D.C. residents would be very upset with us disrupting them,” said Belinda Bee, co-founder and national organizer of the rally, “2 Million Bikers to D.C.”

The National Park Service did not return a call on Monday.

Bee said the biker rally could now be more disruptive. The permit would have allowed bikers to go through the city without stopping at traffic signals or stop signs or yielding for pedestrians.

“Now it's going to take the whole day to get through,” Bee said. She said she did not know how many would participate.

Organizers of “2 Million Bikers to D.C.” conceived their event last month as a counter-rally to a Sept. 11 event planned in Washington by the American Muslim Political Action Committee, Bee said. She said organizers abandoned that cause, opting to rally for patriotic reasons instead.

The Muslim PAC's rally was originally dubbed the Million Muslim March, but organizers changed the name to the Million American March Against Fear in February, said Kevin Barrett, the group's spokesman. He said fear has impinged on civil liberties of all Americans since 9/11, not just Muslims.

Barrett said the PAC applied in the spring for a permit to hold its event.

“Most of our speakers will be non-Muslim,” Barrett said, adding bikers are welcome to attend, and he thinks the two sides could find common ground on issues related to freedom.

Bee declined the invitation.

Both groups have faced backlash. Barrett said organizers of the Muslim PAC's rally have been the target of numerous death threats, while Bee said people hacked the biker group's Facebook page more than 70 days in 23 days. More than 60,000 “liked” the Facebook page as of Monday night.

Eric “Tut” Biagini, 48, of Waynesburg will be among the bikers participating from Pennsylvania. He heads Pride MC, a club of motorcycle-riding corrections officers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“Some people hold prejudices against bikers, but when it comes to our country, our freedoms and our veterans, we all stand up,” Biagini, a Navy veteran, said. “This (permit denial) made me more determined to go.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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