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DC crowd pushes through barriers to WWII memorial

Published: Sunday, Oct. 13 2013 2:17 p.m. MDT

People rally at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial and access to it by World War II veterans who traveled there on Honor Flight visits. The memorial has been closed due to the partial federal government shutdown.  (Alex Brandon, Associated Press) People rally at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial and access to it by World War II veterans who traveled there on Honor Flight visits. The memorial has been closed due to the partial federal government shutdown. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — A crowd converged on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Sunday, pushing through barriers to protest the memorial's closing under the government shutdown.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, along were former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among those gathered Sunday morning. Cruz said President Barack Obama is using veterans as pawns in closing the memorial.

"Let me ask a simple question," Cruz told the crowd. "Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?"

The crowd chanted "Tear down these walls" and "You work for us." Protesters sang "God bless America" and other songs as they entered the memorial plaza.

"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.

Kaylee Cantrell, left, 13, from Lexington Park, Md., with Sherry Cantrell and Michael Cantrell, both from Crossville, Tenn., pose for a photo in front of a sign and removed barricades at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial and access to it by World War II veterans who traveled there on Honor Flight visits. The memorial has been closed to the public since the partial federal government shutdown.  (Alex Brandon, Associated Press) Kaylee Cantrell, left, 13, from Lexington Park, Md., with Sherry Cantrell and Michael Cantrell, both from Crossville, Tenn., pose for a photo in front of a sign and removed barricades at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial and access to it by World War II veterans who traveled there on Honor Flight visits. The memorial has been closed to the public since the partial federal government shutdown. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

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 memorial barricades to the White House and rallied outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear. Protesters carried one sign reading "Impeach Obama."

Police moved the protesters back to set up barricades between the crowd and the White House gate. An armored police vehicle also was sent to the World War II Memorial.

Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a rally at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. Leaders in the U.S. Senate have taken the helm in the search for a deal to end the partial government shutdown and avert a federal default. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial, subsequent to the shutdown, and lack of access to it by World War II veterans, who traveled there on Honor Flight visits.  (Alex Brandon, Associated Press) Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a rally at the World War II Memorial in Washington Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. Leaders in the U.S. Senate have taken the helm in the search for a deal to end the partial government shutdown and avert a federal default. The rally was organized to protest the closure of the Memorial, subsequent to the shutdown, and lack of access to it by World War II veterans, who traveled there on Honor Flight visits. (Alex Brandon, Associated Press)

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.

Jim Weller of Allentown, Pa., said he came to the World War II Memorial to protest its closure.

"I'm here today to stand up for my rights," he told The Associated Press. "My father was a World War II veteran, shot down in the Philippines in 1945, and for them to shut down this memorial is absurd."

Cindy Good had a message for lawmakers.

"They need to listen to the American people ," she said, "and try to work together in Congress to get this whole thing worked out."

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