Several hundred protesters and veterans, many in wheelchairs, descended on the National Mall Sunday to rally against the closing of war memorials across the country.
Now on day 13 of the government shutdown, which began after House Republicans refused to support a resolution to fund the government unless it defunded Obamacare, closed war memorials have become a lightning rod for Republican outrage.
In addition to memorials, other federal activities–such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH,) food banks, and Head Start programs–have been shuttered. Eight hundred thousand federal employees have also been furloughed.
Joined by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, demonstrators pushed through barriers at the World War II Memorial, chanting “tear down these walls,” and singing God Bless America. Some carried the metal barricades a half-mile to the White House, where the protest spilled over. One Confederate flag was seen waving in front of the fence.
“Veterans have proven they are not timid, so we will not be timid in calling out any who use our military, our vets as pawns in a political game,” Palin told the crowd, organized as part of an event called the Million Vet March.
Outside the White House gates, police on horseback clashed with protesters, though no one was arrested.
“This is the people’s memorial,” said Cruz, who in the lead-up to the shutdown staged a 21-hour quasi-filibuster against the Affordable Care Act. “Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep people out?”