THOUSANDS of bikers rode into London as part of a massive protest against the prosecution of a former British soldier charged over Bloody Sunday.
The M25 is expected to grind to a halt with organisers of the Rolling Thunder event predicting 7,000 bikers will join the motorway before riding into the capital. Rolling Thunder’s Facebook page shows bikers massing at service stations in Leicestershire and Cheshire and features video clips of motorcycle convoys heading south from the North East, Yorkshire and Derbyshire. The ride-out is being staged in support of “Soldier F”, a 77-year-old army veteran who faces murder charges for killing two civil rights demonstrators in Londonderry in 1972.
In central London, Park Lane is closed between Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner after a group of Rolling Thunder bikers gathered as part of the larger protest.
AA Roadwatch said local detours were in operation and 10 bus routes had been diverted as a result.
One of the riders, Fred Staszewski, wrote on Facebook: "Just a heads up, please be aware that this Friday April 12 there will be many motorcycles on ALL roads leading to London.
"There are groups of riders coming from the four corners of the country and it is estimated that 7,000 bikes will be in attendance.
“There are five designated assembly points around the M25 before the push into central London.
"Please take extra care out there on Friday and watch out for the bikers."
Riders met at the Thurrock Motorway Services Area in Grays, Essex and at other meeting points along the M25 including the service areas at Clacket Lane, South Mimms and at London Gateway Services on the M1 and Heston Services on the M4.
Another rider, Christopher Davies, added: "Rolling Thunder in support of Soldier F motorcycle ride taking place on Friday 12th April should be quite spectacular.
"The Facebook page has exceeded 12,000 since its inception in a couple of weeks.
"A possible 7,000 motorbikes will be converging on London mostly ridden by veterans although anyone is welcome on the ride."
The Met Police are working with organisers and are supervising the event.
On January 20, 1972, 14 civilians and another 14 were wounded when troops from 1 Para fired at demonstrators in the Bogside area of Londonderry.
The day became known as Bloody Sunday and is remembered as one of the darkest days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.
Prosecutors said Solider F will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.
Rolling Thunder is also an annual motorcycle rally that is held in Washington, D.C., during the Memorial Day weekend to call for the government's recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs). The tribute to American war heroes started in 1988 with 2,500 participants. Now approximately 900,000 participants and spectators are involved with this annual demonstration in Washington, D.C. Rolling Thunder is one of the best patriotic events held in the nation's capital and a unique experience not to be missed.