Will Palin Steal Rolling Thunder?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rolling Thunder organizers react to Sarah Palin's decision to launch her bus tour there Sunday. (Published Friday, May 27, 2011)

    Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will kick off her One Nation bus tour at this weekend's Rolling Thunder event on the National Mall, but to some organizers, they hope that’s just lipstick on a hog.

    The organizers of Rolling Thunder that spoke to NBC Washington's Derrick Ward aren't too pleased about Palin's planned presence, not because of her politics, but because they try to keep the demonstration politically neutral.

    “We're open,” organizer Ted Shpak said. “You can come and ride in our run. The public is invited. We just hope they're here for our demonstration reasons.”

    For 24 years, Rolling Thunder has protested perceived undercounting and reporting of those missing in action during the Vietnam War. Politicians have participated in the past but kept their politics out of it, Ward reported. There are concerns Palin’s appearance will cross that line.

    Rolling Thunder does not want to appear to be endorsing anyone who may be considering a run for office, Ward reported.

    "We're not endorsing nobody, and she’s definitely not speaking on our stage,” Shpak said.

    The organizers said they’ve never heard Palin take much of a position on veterans’ issues or the issues of those missing in action, Ward reported.

    Palin supporter La Donna Curzon plans to exercise her First Amendment rights from waters off the Memorial Bridge.

    "I told the Palin people if they’re going over the bridge to look for a boat in the water of the Potomac,” she said. “I’ll have my boat out and a banner on the side that says ’Run, Sarah, Run.’”

    Palin’s people said she was invited by a former board member who’s taking part in the event and offered for her to ride with the group from the Pentagon to D.C. National organizers were not told.

    "She probably just wanted to have the experience,” said Curzon, who doesn’t think Palin’s appearance will politicize the event. “She’s here in town, so go for it."

    Rolling Thunder, which also advocates for veterans and their families, hopes Palin doesn’t distract from the issues of past and present wars, Ward reported. There are two more MIAs now because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, organizers said.

    "The public needs to be more aware of what’s going on and help these veterans from day one when they get out," organizer Joe Bean said.

    Shpak and Bean said Palin was asked to speak at conference of their group last year but they never got an answer.