WASHINGTON — A crowd converged on the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Sunday, pushing through barriers to protest the memorial's closing under the government shutdown.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, were among those gathered Sunday morning. Cruz said President Barack Obama is using veterans as pawns in closing the memorial.
"Let me ask a simple question," Cruz told the crowd. "Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?"
The crowd chanted "Tear down these walls" and "You work for us." Protesters sang "God bless America" and other songs as they entered the memorial plaza.
"Our vets have proven that they have not been timid, so we will not be timid in calling out any who would use our military, our vets, as pawns in a political game," Palin told the crowd.
The memorial has become a political symbol in the bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans over who is at fault since the shutdown began. Earlier rallies have focused on allowing access for World War II veterans visiting from across the country with the Honor Flight Network.
Sunday's rally was more political. A protest by truckers converged with a rally by a group called the Million Vet March at the World War II Memorial. Participants cut the links between metal barriers at the National Park Service site and pushed them aside.
Later some protesters carried memorial barricades to the White House and rallied outside the gates, confronting police in riot gear. Protesters carried one sign reading "Impeach Obama," and some waved Confederate flags.
Police moved the protesters back to set up barricades between the crowd and the White House gate. An armored police vehicle also was sent to the World War II Memorial.
District of Columbia police said the crowd was starting to disperse by 1 p.m. U.S. Park Police said there had been at least one arrest at the Lincoln Memorial, though no details were available.
Jim Weller of Allentown, Pa., said he came to the World War II Memorial to protest its closure.
"I'm here today to stand up for my rights," he told The Associated Press. "My father was a World War II veteran, shot down in the Philippines in 1945, and for them to shut down this memorial is absurd."
Cindy Good had a message for lawmakers.
"They need to listen to the American people ," she said, "and try to work together in Congress to get this whole thing worked out."