Trump rolls into Washington with a message for veterans

Donald Trump greets supporters and bikers at a Rolling Thunder rally at the National Mall in Washington. Photo / AP
Donald Trump greets supporters and bikers at a Rolling Thunder rally at the National Mall in Washington. Photo / AP

White House hopeful Donald Trump received a warm welcome yesterday as he addressed a motorcycle rally that attracted many military veterans to the United States capital.

"I will protect every bit of the Second Amendment" right to bear arms, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told several thousand people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, traditionally a favoured spot for major political demonstrations in Washington.

"We have to rebuild our military" and "we are going to take care of our veterans", the billionaire said in a brief speech as the crowd - consisting of leather-clad bikers, tourists and other spectators - cheered him on.

Trump asked during his address why other countries, nodding at Japan, aren't asked to pay "100 per cent" of the cost of deploying US troops to overseas bases.

"Because we are stupid," responded a voice in the crowd.

The Rolling Thunder rally is an annual event that sees thousands of bikers - many of them former service members - roar into Washington.

Jack Bellamy, a 41-year-old veteran and biker from northern Virginia, was thrilled that Trump addressed the rally.

"The other candidates, they don't want to do anything for the vets," he said.

"We want to get rid of politicians" who "don't listen to people" and "put someone else in power", he added.

Bellamy lamented that things were not going well in the US, pointing to federal government guidelines telling public schools to let transgender students use the bathroom of their choice as an example.

A group of states is now suing over the move.

"The whole bathroom issue ... they tried to shovel it down our throats," Bellamy said. "A man is a man, a woman is a woman."

First started in 1988, Rolling Thunder draws bikers from around the country to Washington on the Memorial Day holiday weekend honouring the nation's war dead.

Some 300,000 were expected for this year's event, according to the Pentagon, which yesterday hosted the start of a flag-filled parade through the streets of downtown Washington.

Only a portion of the bikers were present for Trump's speech.

Trump promised that next year, the bikers would have an easier time accessing the area.

Trump frequently honours veterans at his rallies and he has come out with a plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also held a fundraiser for veterans' causes in place of an Iowa debate that he skipped.


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