October 1st, 2013
12:26 PM ET
7 months ago

Veterans break past World War II Memorial barricade

Update 1:45 p.m. ET: House GOP leadership sources tell CNN they plan to vote on a series of bills to fund the government, beginning Tuesday with three measures–spending for veterans, the District of Columbia and the Park Service.

Washington (CNN) – Busloads of World War II veterans, many in wheelchairs, broke past a barricade Tuesday morning to cross into the World War II Memorial, as onlookers applauded and a man playing the bagpipes led the way.

Moments earlier, a few Republican members of Congress had removed a section of the black gates that surrounded the site, allowing a line of veterans to roll past security officers, who willingly stood aside.

Veteran Donald Quinn of Pascagoula, Mississippi, said he was pleased with his visit to the memorial, despite the initial blockade.

"I'm surprised to see so many people here and so many important people, but I've enjoyed it," he said. "At first I didn't think I'd come, but I'm glad I did."

Photo by Laura Koran

Photo by Laura Koran

The National Park Service closed all of its parks, including national memorials, as a result of the federal government shutdown that went into effect at 12:01 a.m ET.

But a spokeswoman from the National Mall and Parks Service said efforts were no longer being made to hold anyone back.

"These are important visitors," Carol Johnson told reporters, adding that they're seeking guidance from the director's office on "where we go next."

"Obviously we did not want to do anything to mar the trip of these people," she said, saying the visitors came from Mississippi and Iowa. "They've come here specifically to see the memorial that was built for them."

Some Republican members of Congress and a Democratic senator were on site, blasting the federal government for fencing off the memorial. Outraged and baffled, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, crossed through an opening in the railing earlier in the morning–before the breach–and got on the phone to try and reach the secretary of the Department of Interior.

"I don't get it. I'm furious. I'm trying to get a hold of people," he said, standing on the other side of the barricade and looking around for help. "But I can't seem to get a hold of anybody."

Photo by Laura Koran/CNN

Photo by Laura Koran/CNN

Harkin faulted Republicans for what he called their "nonsense" legislative push that led to the shutdown.

"Obviously I can walk here," Harkin said, as he walked past the barrier. "Why can't I walk there?" he added, pointing at the memorial located not far away.

A few House Republicans were also at the memorial to disparage the government for closing off the landmark on a day that veterans were set to arrive.

Rep. Steven Palazzo, one of the congressmen who helped move the gates, argued the decision to close the memorial may have been more of a political ploy than a bureaucratic oversight. The Mississippi Republican said it makes no sense to close an open-air monument and compared it to prohibiting someone from touching a tree.

"All Americans should have access to the monuments, but if there's one group, it's our greatest generation, and this might be the last opportunity in their lifetime to visit their memorial," he said.

"We've got park service employees out here," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, before the gates were opened.  "Why wouldn't you have them here to allow the veterans in, instead of stand and keep them from coming in?"

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, wearing casual clothes, said she was out walking when she heard about the pile-up outside the memorial and decided to hustle over to the site.

"The last thing we should see in America is a barricade for World War II veterans to be prevented from coming to their memorial," Bachmann said.

She vowed she and colleagues will be there "today, tomorrow, the next day, however long it takes" to keep the memorial open.

"America is not shutting down," she said. "If we have anything to say about it, we're going to keep this open."

Photo by Laura Koran/CNN

All Honor Flight visits include a bagpipe processional. Photo by Laura Koran/CNN

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, called the moment heart-warming, if infuriating that intervention was necessary in the first place.

"We don't have guards around them at any other time," King said of the monuments in a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

He referred to the gating off of the memorial as "a completely spiteful act," by President Obama, comparing it to the White House canceling school tours in the aftermath of the automatic budget cuts of the sequester. "Perhaps the most bitter, spiteful act ever committed by a commander in chief."

When asked why Obama would personally order the memorial closed off, King said he couldn't get into the president's head. But "the secretary of the Interior is not going to make such a spiteful decision," he said. "This has to be a White House decision."

Most of the veterans who arrived at the World War II Memorial came courtesy of nonprofit programs, including Honor Flight Network, that transport the aging men and women to Washington.

Johnson, the spokeswoman for the National Mall and Parks, said the memorial hosts Honor Flight visitors every day.

"We want to make sure that they have a good time and are enjoying the memorial, but legally, the National Mall and the memorial are closed," she said.

Asked if she was off the clock and volunteering her time, Johnson replied: "Apparently so."

– CNN's Bryan Koenig contributed to this report.


Filed under: Congress • Washington D.C.
soundoff (344 Responses)
  1. RIchard Long

    Hoax and Blame at it's finest.
    Just as with Obama's Sequester, the cuts will hit any public-facing facility or service. Meanwhile, Air Force One will be fueled up and ready to go to:
    - take Obama to his next fundraiser
    - fly one of the First Family pets across the country
    - take Michelle and/or kids to their next fabulous vacation

    A REAL leader would have taken responsibility for the situation and fixed it. But we do not have a real leader, just one that avoids to 'make the buck stop here' and just blames everyone else.

    October 1, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  2. Hogan's Goat

    Don't worry, there will be armed guards tomorrow. Don't let people near that wall without guards nearby unless you want "AYN RAND" or "NOBAMA" spray-painted across them. The whole teabag party will be there tomorrow looking for a fight.

    October 1, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  3. Native Earthling

    Vets stormed the WWII memorial and Michelle Bachmann showed up to make a statement? LOL, this sounds like a Southpark episode!

    More power to the vets for making fools out of congress and the house!

    October 1, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. just saying

    Miles
    The real problem is that we have bureaucrats who think they own this country.
    -–

    i disagree. the real problem is the democrats think they own every cent of our paychecks. we need to repeal or modify the amendment that allows an unlimited taking of personal property. the government under democrat control has proven it knows no bounds.

    October 1, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Linda

    Would have been a shame for these WWII vets to be denied entry to the memorial. You know it took some planning and real effort for them to come to DC. I say Michelle Bachman should do some real work and volunteer her services at the memorial every day the Republican created shut down is in effect.

    October 1, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. bryan

    since the staff is apparently onsite are we closing things out of spite?

    October 1, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. Ladyc

    Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, wearing casual clothes, said she was out walking when she heard about the pile-up outside the memorial and decided to hustle over to the site. Michele – are you serious! Do you really expect the American people to buy into your performance?
    This is just another opportunity for you and your cohorts to create "talking points," that we will hear over and over again.

    October 1, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. Polijukie

    When will America wake up and realize that these Teapublicans are just the resurrected ghost of the Bush/Cheney Administration that did this country in for eight years! Ted Cruz was a domestic affairs advisor for Bush during the 2000 election, 60% of the Tea Party is funded by a handful of former Bush supporters. These people don't hold big corporations hostage as much as they hold the American people hostage. They have downgraded our credit, we have passed no major legislation, they have even gone as far to not appoint circuit court judges which use to be a formality. GET THESE TEABAGGERS OUT starting in 2014!!!

    October 1, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  9. cvg22

    these representatives need to get off their fat a$$es and hammer out the legislation necessary to pay the government workers who actually showed up to do their job without pay to guard those monuments. pandering to the war vets like you have no responsibility for the park service closing is just ignorant. gone are the days that we actually believe anything you jerks on the hill say. you represent you and only your special interests. RECALL and fire the bums!

    October 1, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. Wilson

    DON'T VOTE REPUB!!!!!!

    My husb. had to go to a hosp ER, out of five people waiting, he was the only one with medical coverage. No wonder a band aid costs $10 from the hosp., Those insured are paying for those who have no ins. Do I blame them? NO! it's not their fault. Now, here is an opportunity, let the American people decide whether this will work, remember they repealed Prohabition, so nothing is writ in stone. Tea-poopers have no right to force their agenda before WE THE PEOPLE decide.
    ---------
    You will be paying for them anyway, with all the extra taxes/fees/fines and working people will be paying with obamacare.

    October 1, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. sonny chapman

    News Flash! The House Repubs. realize they messed up REAL BAD. They're scurrying for a quick vote to fund National Parks. They got egg on their face by dissing the WWII Vets. Some may not be able to make it back if they can't get in now. So NOW, the House Repubs. are gonna do a line by line funding process, depending on the political heat(like the Air Traffic Controllers). They ought to wrap up the process by the year 2025.

    October 1, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Anamerican

    So know we know what it feels like to be held hostage, by our own Government. There was no practical reason the memorials were closed, the Parks employees came to work, they did what they were told ( By whom is an important question) but displayed judgment and turned thier backs to what went on

    October 1, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Michelle Bachman needs to go back to her Minnesota cave and hide.. She's a disgrace to the Congress, Minnesota and Republicans everywhere.. Ronald Reagan rolls in his grave every time this woman speaks.

    October 1, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  14. cls

    Well what an orchestrated joke. Get some guys who have health benefits to go along with your lame attempt to blame the white house and the senate for the shut down. Sorry but this place is closed because you can't get your job done, and you would rather waste time and money grandstanding then coming up with workable legislation.

    October 1, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  15. Military Vet

    D a m n the GOP extortionists. I hold the GOP and Tea party 100% responsible for what is happening. They have said for two years that they want to shut down our government. Now they have found an excuse. The last time they did this in the 1990's it cost the U.S. Government $1.2 Billion dollars. Now, as President Reagn famously said, "There they go again!" How much taxpayer money are they going to waste this time? How many jobs will be lost? Not to mention the debt ceiling fight coming up next, where they can get our National credit rating downgraded again.

    October 1, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  16. Gene2

    Leave it to the two dimmest bulbs in the House, Gohmert and Bachmann, to make some kind of meaningless "statement" and taking an equally meaningless stand on closing the Memorial. Hey, Dumb and Dumber, why don't you get your clueless selves back to the House and vote like people with brains to keep our government open?

    October 1, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  17. Mark Brown

    Harkin does not understand why he can not get ahold of people. The republicans closed the government.

    October 1, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  18. theprofessor11

    Geez, people...it's a PARTIAL SHUTDOWN of NON-ESSENTIAL government services! Why is that so hard for anyone to understand?

    October 1, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  19. Marcus

    Leave it to Michele to grab the spotlight and make an event all about her.

    October 1, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  20. Sistas

    Vote the GOP and their goose-stepping bagger compatriots out of office.

    October 1, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  21. Tom Wyckoff

    The facts are simple: The Tea Party doesn't want Obamacare (although why they don't is murky). They claim that a "vast majority" of the country does not want Obamacare (although the actual poll numbers are more like 53/48 in favor and those numbers don't mean a thing since nobody has tried Obamacare yet. The rest of the Republicans are afraid that everyone will love the new provisions in the ACA, especially the considerable cost savings for most (not all) people. So, what do they do? They stomp their feet and threaten the very economic recovery we ALL have been waiting patiently for for 4 years. The Tea Party is a stain on American history. The rest of the Republican party should be ashamed.

    October 1, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  22. Get the full story

    The veterans did not storm anything on the Mall. A few members of Congress moved the barrier and the guards allowed it to happen. Anyone who has ever been to the National Mall will understand why it is a ridiculous idea to think it can be shut down. It is a large open green space between two sidewalks!!!!! That was done as a political game by the President and his followers. Much like ending White House tours, but continuing to throw lavish White House parties that cost many times more than the tours. Our top government offices are filled with self-interested jerks from both parties.

    October 1, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  23. fluff

    These guys fought their way across the Pacific and Europe. They stormed the beaches at Normandy and they stormed their ineffective government in Washington. Good for them. They may be old but they are practical. we s/b cheering these guys and gals on.

    October 1, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  24. pamik

    FANTASTIC FOR OUR WWII VETS! Good for them. The enemy didn't stop them during the war, why should their own goverment stop them? Kudos to everyone who saw to it that these brave men and/or women were allowed to enjoy their memorial and their day. We can live the way we do thanks to the bravery of these folks.

    October 1, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. bloodklot

    So wait, Congress shuts gov't down and then when this happens, they run over to take photo ops and say, we shouldn't do this to our Veterans? Give me a break... You did this! And then Michelle Bachman running over in plain clothes... is this her version of rolling up her sleeves and loosening her tie and getting her "hands dirty" PATHETIC!

    October 1, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14