Tens of thousands of veteran motorcyclist rumble into the nation's capital each Memorial Day to honor their fallen comrades and to raise awareness of America's prisoners of war and those missing in action. Some 300,000 people are expected at this year's rally on May 28.
Now celebrating it's 25th anniversary, Rolling Thunder has grown into the world's largest single-day motorcycle event.
The rally also attracts hundreds of illicit merchants who sell unauthorized merchandise and clothing bearing Rolling Thunder images, according to the lawsuit filed by the nonprofit organization last week in D.C. federal court.
"Within hours after the genuine merchandise is put on display, the law suit said, the pirated items hit the streets. Illicit venders set up hastily erected booths and folding tables throughout the District of Columbia and sell items with artwork nearly indistinguishable from the real artwork, the lawsuit states.
"It happens every year, and they pocket the money themselves, which isn't good," said Rolling Thunder spokesperson Nancy Regg.
Organizers point out that Rolling Thunder approved merchandise will be only sold at Thunder Alley, located at 22nd Street NW between C Street and Constitution Avenue NW, organizers said.
Rally organizers have attempted to get the assistance of law enforcement to stop the sale of the pirated merchandise, the lawsuit states, but without a court order, law enforcement authorities said they would not get involved.
By the time rally organizers could secure a court order, the Rolling Thunder Rally would be over and the street-sellers would be long gone, an organizer said.
The bogus merchandise is typically of cheap quality, causing more financial harm to the rally and its reputation, the lawsuit states.
The identities of the sellers are not named in the complaint, but they will be amended once they are identified, the suit states.