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 governor Sarah Palin, according to WTOP radio. Cruz said President Obama is using veterans as pawns in the shutdown.
"Tear down these walls," the crowd chanted. Protesters also sang God Bless Americaand other patriotic songs as they entered the memorial plaza.
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.
Jeff Thompkins of New York told WRC-TV he was there because people fight and died for the freedom to visit public spaces and to protest.
"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."