FORT WASHINGTON, Md. - Harley-Davidson is one of the world's best known names in motorsports. But a dealership near the nation's capital has had to throw it into reverse over a protest that has gone viral and they are racing to set the record straight in the face of an online assault.
The dealership's owners said they agreed to allow a group of bikers to meet up at their Fort Washington, Maryland location on October 10 prior to a "Ride for Justice" rally into Washington D.C. But what they did not count on was an online backlash because this ride is part of the 20th anniversary of Rev. Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam "Million Man March."
But customers said the negative reaction is overblown.
"I wouldn't be involved with anything or deal with a business that was not up and up and on board, so I think it's just something that got out of hand with the internet," said Cornell Holdsten, a retired police officer.
The online petition now circulating denounces the "Ride for Justice," Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam while calling for the dealership to be stripped of its franchise.
"You also got to understand that it's getting close to the 2016 elections and there's a lot of heat out there," said Harley-Davidson rider Johnny Holmes. "There are a lot of upset people."
Thomas Moorehead, owner of Harley-Davison of Washington DC, issued a detailed statement explaining they allow numerous groups to meet up here because the company does "not discriminate against individuals because of their political views."
But he added, "We have withdrawn our consent for the bikers to meet here."
Regulars at this dealership said they will stand behind the owners.
"This business is definitely not trying to put any harm to anybody," said rider Terry Bradley. "They are trying to bring everybody together."
But even with the change in direction, the petition is still going on. The organizers are asking for 6,000 signatures and they are well on their way to hitting that mark.