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Defying government shutdown, national park visitors play 'catch me if you can' (+video)

Some Americans are challenging government shutdown national park closures by leaping over barricades or tossing cones aside in acts they call civil disobedience, but which some authorities call just breaking the law.

By Staff writer / October 8, 2013

Despite signs stating that the national parks are closed, people visit the World War II Memorial in Washington on Oct. 2.

Susan Walsh/AP

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With the US government shutdown well into its second week, growing numbers of Americans are gleefully engaging in what they call “civil disobedience” by tossing aside cones or jumping over government shutdown-inspired barricades around national monuments, malls, and park entrances.

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Whether their acts are punishable by law or a legitimate citizen protest against the federal government is an emerging question as the shutdown entered Day 8. 

Hundreds of national park and forest service sites from Washington State to Washington, D.C., have been barricaded or closed amid a government shutdown over the implementation of Obamacare. The political sniping has focused on who is to blame for the budget impasse: Republicans for pushing the issue to a budgetary brink, or President Obama and Democrats for failing, at least, to entertain Republican ideas.

Yet the barricaded federal lands issue has particularly focused on whether it’s really necessary to close off public lands that aren’t regularly patrolled, that are leased to private entities, or are simply open-air monuments without pay gates. For some areas, millions of dollars in tourism revenue is at stake.

“We’ve gone from ‘this land is your land, this land is my land,’ to the government saying this land is its land,” writes University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds in an e-mail. “President Obama said that government is just a word for the things we do together. Apparently that includes kicking WWII veterans off their memorial.”

The politics took on a sharper tone on Tuesday, as a pro-immigrant rally was allowed to take place at the “closed” National Mall near where, five days earlier, World War II veterans first breached barricades in a high-profile moment in the shutdown. The Park Service has since padlocked the area, but has intermittently allowed veterans (though nobody else) to enter.

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