'Million Vet March' converges on D.C.
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - Hundreds of protesters with the "Million Vet March" arrived at the World War II Memorial Sunday morning to protest the closure of the memorials during the federal government shutdown.
The protesters removed the barriers and entered the memorial, which has been closed since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
"Tear down these walls," the crowd chanted. Protesters also sang "God bless America" and other patriotic songs.
Bruce Wing and his wife traveled from Atlanta to support the veterans.
"The shutting down of these memorials, if one looks at right and wrong, that's clearly wrong," he says.
Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among the crowd, WTOP reports.
"Two weeks ago the president of the United States signed a written veto threat. He said 'if you open the memorial, I will veto it,'" Sen. Cruz told the crowd.
"This is the people's memorial," Palin told the crowd. "Our veterans should be above politics."
Later some protesters carried barricades to the White House and rallied outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear. Protesters carried one sign reading "Impeach Obama."
"Whether it's peacetime or war, our people do so much. The military's done so much," says George Rathmell, who spent 20 years as an Army chaplain. "The scars, many of them never heal. Even if they're not on the outside, they're on the inside.
About 15 tractor trailers from the Ride for the Constitution protest, which has taken place all weekend, also arrived at the memorial protest to lend support to the veterans.
The trucks drove down 17th Street honking their horns while heading toward the Mall. They were later blocked by police barricades.
U.S. Park Police said there had been at least one arrest at the Lincoln Memorial, though no details were available.
President Obama said Thursday that national parks could reopen as long as each state paid the operation costs. Colorado, Utah and Arizona all took advantage. The future of the District's parks, however, is unclear.
Later in the day U.S. Park Police stood by as younger veterans helped several older veterans past barricades at the Lincoln Memorial and up the steps.
Soon after, members of a crowd gathered there took down the barricades and police did not interfere as crowds of people streamed into the monument.
"I told these gentleman, 'you made history once in 1940, World War 2.' And I said, 'you're making history now. Because you're standing up for something that you fought for,'" said Jim Corrales, one of the men who helped the older veterans up the steps.
Barricades were also nowhere to be seen Sunday at the Vietnam and Korean war memorials.
A number of tourists who had nothing to do with Sunday's protests told ABC7 they were glad they happened.
"Oh, I think it's awesome, I think somebody had to stand up and do something," said Ginny Manguno of Tennessee, who is on an East Coast tour with her family.
Manguno says from Boston to Philadelphia a number of things the family wanted to see have been closed due to the federal government shutdown. They expected the same thing in DC.
"We didn't expect to see really anything up close, and got over here and the barricades were gone," said Ginny's daughter Meredith.
"I think it's great, honestly," said Rachel Marquez, a tourist from Boston who was spending her last full day in DC and was finally able to see the World War Two Memorial up close. "I think it was ridiculous all the memorials here were closed."
Although it was largely a day of peaceful protests, U.S. Park Police reported two arrests.
One happned around 1:00 p.m. near the World War 2 Memorial. Park Police say a man was carrying a .22 caliber rifle and had ammunitiion inside the case the rifle was in.
Another man was arrested inside the Lincoln Memorial for allegedly having a pocket knife.
NewsChannel 8's Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.