The Obama administration has decided to block access to public memorials on the National Mall as a result of the government shutdown.
The decision is similar to the cancellation of White House tours when the sequester cuts took effect.
On Monday, the first day of the government shutdown, a number of veterans showed up at the World War II memorial to find access blocked by barricades, despite the fact the memorial is a public space open at all times with very little oversight from the Park Police.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement blaming the barricaded memorials on the Republican Party.
“Thanks to the Republican government shutdown, tourists lined up outside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas but couldn’t get in. Thanks to the Republican government shutdown, a group of World War II veterans, some of them in wheelchairs, who traveled from Iowa and Mississippi had to break down barricades to visit a Washington, D.C. memorial in their honor.”
However, the White House was informed of the veterans’ visit and chose to block access.
A report from the Daily Caller said Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., had requested permission from the White House for veterans to have access to the public sidewalk leading to the memorial.
The veterans were visiting the memorial as part of Honor Flight, a non-profit group that provides veterans free transport to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials to the wars they fought in.
Palazzo’s office was in touch with the heads of the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the Capitol Police. He said every agency rejected his request to allow entry to the veterans, many of whom are octogenarians and some of whom are in poor health.
“We got the heads up that they will be barricaded and specifically asked for an exception for these heroes,” Palazzo told the Daily Caller. “We were denied and told, ‘It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?’ when we contacted the liaison for the White House.
“At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo said in the report, “but having talked with the officials I can’t help but think this was politically motivated.”
Palazzo said veterans from all over the nation will be coming to D.C. this week, so he and other congressmen “took an informal vote” to move the barricade.
“Sometime it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission,” he said with a smile.
“This is the best civil disobedience we’ve seen in Washington in a while,” added Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich.
On Wednesday, a new wave of veterans who flew in from Ohio, Kansas and Missouri were forced to move barricades at the same memorial, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told Fox News.
“We plan on going through the barricades unless we are forcefully stopped,” John Doole of Heartland Honor Flight told WDAF-TV. “For some of these gentlemen, this is the only time they’ve been to D.C., they’re not going to have the opportunity to come back, so this will be their only time to see the memorial, so it’s critical they go there today.”
World War II veteran Pete Kesser was resolute.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to storm the barricades, wouldn’t be allowed too, but this is a tough group of guys, so don’t screw with them,” he said.
“A lot of my old comrades were lost in World War II,” Ian Drake told the TV station. “Eighteen of 100 in my graduating class were lost in World War II, so it’s important for me to show my respect at the memorial.”
The Honor Flight Network recognizes American veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them to Washington, D.C., to see their memorials at no cost. Top priority is given to World War II and terminally ill veterans from all wars.
Veterans have been stacked up for months on Honor Flight rosters, awaiting their chance to visit the memorial.
“They’re in their mid-80s to 90s, and this is the only opportunity they’re ever going to have to be able to see that memorial,” says Diane Gresse, Honor Flight’s executive director. “Most of these men and women have been on a waiting list for one or two years, sometimes longer.”
“Time is of the essence,” Honor Flight makes clear on its website.
Gresse told Time magazine: “A lot of these veterans hang on until they can experience an Honor Flight trip.”
One congressman is suggesting the Obama administration is now spending money to make sure the public is impacted by the government shutdown by dispatching special crews to set up barricades around public sidewalks so that people are kept away from patriotic locations like the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
"This administration thinks this is a political game," Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, said on Fox News Wednesday. "This is outrageous. This is a sidewalk. Leave it open.
"And I'm wondering what are they going to do next -- hang a drapery over Mt. Rushmore? I mean, this is ridiculous!"
Gohmert said the open areas should be accessible to passersby even if lights and fountains are turned off.
He also offered a solution for similar problems.
"For those of use who voted to create memorials and have oversight, we're authorized to go in and inspect them, even if it's a surprise inspection," he said.
And the best "inspectors" for such work?
"World War II veterans are the very best people," he said.
Gohmert said he was at the World War II memorial on Tuesday when a group of veterans arrived from Mississippi.
"We were out there … magically the tape parted and the barriers opened," he said.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also charged that the barricades – one commentator spelled them "barrycades" – were political.
"It's open air … let these people in. They deserve it," she said.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., blasted the federal government for trying to block World War II vets from visiting their memorial, saying "some idiot in government sent goons out there to set up barricades."
“If Harry Reid and the President want to keep the parks closed – I mean did you read the story today? Some idiot in government sent goons out there to set up barricades, so they couldn’t see the monument. People had to spend hours setting up barricades where there are never barricades to prevent people from seeing the World War II monument because they’re trying to play a charade,” Rand said Tuesday on the Fox News Channel's “Hannity.”
The U.S. House will try again, as early as Wednesday, to provide funding for the National Park Service and other government functions, even though Democrats in the Senate said they would refused to cooperate with the effort on Tuesday.
WND reported Tuesday when the confrontation developed in Washington and the barricades proved to be no barrier to determined defenders of the nation.
According to the Atlantic Wire, Rep. Steve King helped distract a park police officer while the vets tore down the fences.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Bachmann arrived at the scene after receiving panicked emails about the closure and cut the police tape to let veterans inside.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said he believed the Park Service opened the gates. Huizenga said the congressmen did it. Palazzo said the barricades just seemed to part.
“I’m not going to enforce the ‘no stopping or standing’ sign for a group of 90 World War II veterans,” said a Park Police officer, who declined to give his name. “I’m a veteran myself.”
"It just goes to show you why we won World War II," said Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio President Lee Armstrong.
"The Germans and the Japanese couldn't contain us. They weren't going to let barriers contain them today. They wanted to see their memorial," Armstrong told WNWO-TV.
Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio has a trip scheduled to depart from Toledo Oct. 9.
"We will make the call this Friday to determine if the flight is still a go, or if we will have to re-schedule."
When Armstrong called the parks service, he was told they would face arrest.
"I said, are you kidding me? You're going to arrest a 90/91-year-old veteran from seeing his memorial? If it wasn't for them it wouldn't be there. She said, 'That's correct sir.'"
When Armstrong asked for her name, he said, she promptly hung up the phone.
On Twitter, the actions of the 91-member tour group that had traveled on an Honor Flight from Mississippi were getting a lot of attention.
"Honor flight vets just knocked over the barriers at the WWII Memorial to get inside, #shutdown or no," wrote Leo Shane.
"Do NOT mess with WWII vets. … No sign of folks leaving. The vets have control of the memorial," said Sarah Winman.
Atlantic Wire said: "It's now a party down there, with Iowa veterans joining in on the fun. … Shane reports park police have completely given up trying to keep people out of the memorial."
Writer Connor Simpson explained, "These are your first, and probably only, bad a-- heroes of the government shutdown."
In a Twitter post from a Bill Murphy, a park officer is seen making a phone call as the vets gathered at the memorial.
Adam DeAngelis commented: "The officer is probably getting an answering machine and immediately realizing 'oh right, no one's there.'"
The Obama administration ordered all national parks and some other federal facilities closed because the Republicans in the U.S. House want to address the massive problems with the highly unpopular Obamacare.
Refusing compromise, Democrats in the Senate allowed the budget money for federal government operations to run out.
Forbes pointed out the politics at work in the sequester cuts last winter.
"American families cannot take a tour of the White House because of a cut of $352,000, which equals the cost of operating Air Force One for two hours. My guess is that they would prefer for the president to helicopter down to Camp David for his next outing to save enough to keep the White House open to the American public."
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