Crowds stage rally near World War II Memorial
Republicans were among protesters. Barriers were pushed down.
WASHINGTON - A crowd converged on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Sunday, pushing past barriers to protest the memorial's closing under the government shutdown.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among the demonstrators.
Cruz and Lee are among the tea party-backed lawmakers who refused to keep the government operating unless President Obama agreed to defund the nation's health-care overhaul.
"Let me ask a simple question," Cruz told the crowd of hundreds that gathered beginning at 9 a.m. "Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?"
Black metal barricades have lined the front of the memorial since the government closed Oct. 1. That's when more than 300 National Park Service workers who staff and maintain the National Mall were furloughed.
As the crowd entered the memorial plaza, they chanted "Tear down these walls" and "You work for us." They sang "God bless America" and other songs.
"Our vets have proven that they have not been timid, so we will not be timid in calling out any who would use our military, our vets, as pawns in a political game," Palin told the crowd.
The memorial has become a political symbol in the bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans over who is to blame for the shutdown. Earlier rallies have focused on allowing access for World War II veterans visiting from across the country.
Sunday's rally was more political. A protest by truckers converged with a rally by a group called the Million Vet March at the memorial. Participants cut the plastic links between metal barriers at the National Park Service site and pushed them aside.
Later, some protesters carried metal barricades that look like bicycle racks from the memorial to the White House and stacked them up outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear. Some protesters carried signs reading "Impeach Obama."
Police moved the protesters back to set up barricades between the crowd and the White House gate. Some protesters chanted "shame on you."
District of Columbia police said the crowd was dispersing by 1 p.m..