Updated 10:53 a.m. ET 10/15/2013
Washington (CNN) - A veterans group behind a rally in Washington that protested the closure of national monuments and memorials issued a statement Monday distancing itself from the political undertones that took center stage at the demonstration.
“We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain,” read a statement posted on the website and Facebook page for Sunday’s event, which was facilitated by Brats for Veterans Advocacy Group.
Veterans and many conservative activists gathered at the World War II Memorial, as well as at memorials in other parts of the country, for an organized rally billed as the “Million Vet March on the Memorials.”
High profile conservatives including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin spoke at the event, where protesters removed the barricades blocking off the World War II Memorial.
Strong anti-Obama sentiments were voiced at the event from the podium and among the audience. The yellow Gadsden flag, better known for its “Don’t Tread On Me” message and frequently used at tea party oriented gatherings, could be found throughout the crowd.
The statement posted on the website for the event faulted a “local organizer” for the political direction that rally took.
“The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington D.C. yesterday was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain,” the statement read. “The core principle was and remains about all Americans honoring veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner. Mr. Cruz, Ms. Palin and some attendees, including political parties may have not been aware of the goals of the marches which took place in over 60+ rallies across the nation.”
Brats for Veterans Advocacy Group says it’s apolitical and had a list of guidelines on the website for Sunday’s rally, advising against “political rhetoric veering away from our core message,” “disrespecting of others,” and “protest signs that do not convey the core message contained within our pages.”
The group describes itself as “military brats, current and former military spouses and some veterans” that was sharply disappointed with veterans being used as “political pawns” in the ongoing government shutdown.
On the first day of the government shutdown on October 1, a group of World War II veterans was barred from entering the open-air memorial. But with the help of a few Republican members of Congress, the veterans removed the barricades and streamed onto the site, as security guards stood aside.
The Department of Interior has since said that veterans with the Honor Flight program, as well as any person or group exercising their First Amendment rights, are permitted to visit the memorial, but the site is otherwise closed to the general public until the government reopens.
After the speeches at the World War II Memorial on Sunday, the crowd wandered down to the nearby Lincoln Memorial and removed its barriers as well.
When some officers tried to put them back up, protesters took them from the officers' hands and carried them away from the memorial. Some carried barricades to Pennsylvania Avenue and dumped them in front of the White House.
More protests will take place in Washington on Tuesday, this time by a military coalition including 33 of the nation’s leading veterans and uniformed services organizations.
Officials from these groups say there is a lot of frustration and uncertainty as the shutdown continues, such as among veterans who receive disability and GI Bill benefits and survivors who rely on survivor benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs has said it would not be able to pay benefits if the government stayed closed through the end of month.
- CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Dan Merica contributed to this report.