A team of legal experts is telling President Obama something he probably wasn’t counting on when the White House, as reported by Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., decided to try to block veterans from visiting the World War II memorial in Washington.
“With due respect, Mr. President, we demand: First, that the World War II memorial be reopened immediately for all veterans, their families, and the public to honor and recognize the courage and achievement of those who fought to keep us free; Second, that the memorial be opened once again for First Amendment expressive activity by all members of the public; Third, that the barricades be taken down and removed forthwith; and Fourth, that you issue a personal apology on behalf of your administration to the veterans and their families who have been affected by the current closure.”
This was from Jay Sekulow and Robert W. Ash of the American Center for Law and Justice, which also noted, “Should the closure of the memorial continued, we will be obligated to file a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against the government.”
Their letter, delivered to the White House via oversight service, said the “Greatest Generation” as represented by the veterans who were scheduled to visit the memorial, and who actually moved the barricades and tore down barriers erected by workers on the orders of the administration, “stepped forward during some of the darkest days of our history and placed themselves in harm’s way to protect the country they loved and our way of life.”
“Veterans of the Second World War are dying at the rate of approximately 640 per day. In order to allow veterans to see the memorial that was erected in their honor, Honor Flights have been organized to bring interested veterans to Washington to see the memorial that was erected to honor them,” the attorneys explained
While news reports have said the “budget impasse” caused the closure, “the current budget impasse did not require that the memorial be shut down. Shutting it down was morally inexcusable, given what these veterans did for this nation,” they continued.
“Whoever in your administration made that decision exercised extremely poor judgmenta nd should be admonished.”
“What we are witnessing is a disturbing violation of the First Amendment rights of our nation’s heroes,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “By spending money to bring in barricades to attempt to shut-down an open-air memorial is abhorrent and deeply insulting to WWII vets who defended the very freedoms that are now threatened by the Obama administration’s actions.”
The issue of the closure of the World War II memorial took over headlines nationwide on Wednesday, just a day after the first confrontation developed.
While Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., blamed the Republican Party, saying “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,” the White House actually had been informed of the veterans’ visit and chose to block access.
A report from the Daily Caller said Palazzo 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.”
Members of Congress were lining up beside the veterans.
"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."
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."
According to the Atlantic Wire, Rep. Steve King helped distract a park police officer while the vets tore down the fences.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., also was on hand.