WASHINGTON (AP) — A crowd converged on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, pushing through barriers Sunday morning to protest the memorial's closing under the government shutdown.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those who gathered Sunday morning, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, according to WTOP Radio. Cruz said President Barack Obama is using veterans as pawns in the shutdown.
"Tear down these walls," the crowd chanted. Protesters also sang "God bless America" and other patriotic songs as they entered the memorial plaza.
"This is the people's memorial," Palin told the crowd. "Our veterans should be above politics."
The memorial has become a political symbol in the bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans over who is at fault since the shutdown began. Earlier rallies have focused on allowing access for World War II veterans visiting from across the country with the Honor Flight Network.
Sunday's rally was more political. A protest by truckers converged with a rally by a group called the Million Vet March at the World War II Memorial. Participants cut the links between metal barriers at the National Park Service site and pushed them aside.
Later some protesters carried barricades to the White House and rallied outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear. Protesters carried one sign reading "Impeach Obama."
District of Columbia police said the crowd was starting to disperse by 1 p.m. U.S. Park Police said there had been at least one arrest at the Lincoln Memorial, though no details were available.
Jeff Thompkins of New York told WRC-TV he went to the World War II Memorial because people fought and died for the freedom to visit public spaces.
"Our constitutional rights are being taken away," Thompkins said. "People made the ultimate sacrifice, and they should be open to the public, open to everyone to come down here and see this. This is ridiculous. This is not just and not fair. It's just not fair."
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