A crowd pushed through barriers around the World War II Memorial on the National Mall on Sunday, protesting its closing under the government shutdown.
Republicans Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those who gathered Sunday morning, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, according to WTOP Radio. Cruz said President Barack Obama is using veterans as pawns in the shutdown.
"Tear down these walls," the crowd chanted. Protesters also sang "God bless America" and other patriotic songs as they entered the memorial plaza.
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.
This is the people's memorial. Simple question: Why is the federal government spending money to keep veterans out of the memorial? Why did they spend money to keep people out of Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore? Our veterans should be above political games.
- Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican
“This is the people's memorial,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told the crowd, according to FoxNews.com. “Simple question: Why is the federal government spending money to keep veterans out of the memorial? Why did they spend money to keep people out of Mount Vernon, Mount Rushmore? Our veterans should be above political games.”
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.
Jeff Thompkins of New York told WRC-TV he was there because people fight and died for the freedom to visit public spaces and to protest.
"Our constitutional rights are being taken away," Thompkins said. "People made the ultimate sacrifice, and they should be open to the public, open to everyone to come down here and see this. This is ridiculous. This is not just and not fair. It's just not fair."
Meanwhile, Lady Liberty was once again welcoming visitors to her shores Sunday after the state agreed to shoulder the costs of running the famed statue during the federal government shutdown.
Eager sightseers stood in line in Manhattan's Battery Park, waiting for the ferry trips to the Statue of Liberty, which had been shut since Oct. 1.
Simon and Dominik Balz, brothers visiting from Bern, Switzerland, had booked their trip in May, with the statue among their planned stops. The shutdown had made that seem impossible, "so we were very disappointed," Simon Balz said.
That disappointment turned into excitement when they found out about the reopening. The statue is "well-known all over the world," he said. "It's very special."
Esther Athanase, a 26-year-old au pair from Le Havre, France, was using a ticket she'd booked months ago with a friend. "We have to do this," she said. "It's an American symbol. And it was a gift from France."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the state would pay about $61,600 a day to reopen Liberty Island National Park through Oct. 17. If the shutdown is not resolved by then, officials said, they will renegotiate to keep it open.
On Sunday, Cuomo said it was in the state's economic interest to make sure the statue was accessible.
"When you close down the Statue of Liberty, you close down a good portion of the tourism that comes to New York City, and that is untold millions of dollars of damage," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.