Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) “opened the barricade” and allowed a group of 91 veterans on Tuesday to storm into the closed World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., according to a representative from the group.
Jen Walton, the secretary of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight, which had been scheduled to visit the memorial Tuesday, told TPM the group “went in about 30 minutes ago” and hadn’t necessarily planned to enter the memorial if it was closed.
“We didn’t have a definite plan, so we knew we were going to come here and just see what was going on and if we were going to be able to go in,” said Walton in a phone interview.
Walton said “several congressmen” are currently on the scene and that Palazzo and another official were on hand when the veterans arrived and negotiated with Park Police. Though she was unaware of whether he received permission from the police officers at the memorial, Walton said Palazzo eventually “opened the barricade” at entrance, allowing the veterans to enter.
“Pretty much Palazzo just opened the barricade and we followed him in,” Walton said.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was reportedly also involved in helping the veterans enter the memorial. Walton said she had not seen whether King helped the group get into the memorial.
Walton said it was important for the Honor Flight group to be allowed into the memorial in spite of the government shutdown because it is “their monument.”
“We have 91 World War II vets that we brought up here from Mississippi and this is their monument,” said Walton. “We promised them that we would show them their monument and that they could enjoy it.”
Walton said police officers were still on scene but hadn’t made any attempts to evict the veterans.
“There are some — it looks like some Park Police here, it looks like the Parks Service, but they haven’t done anything,” Walton said.
A second group of veterans arrived at the memorial after it had been opened and was also inside.
“Rght now, it’s pretty much wide open,” she said.
Update: This post has been updated with photos provided by Walton that she said show the memorial when the veterans “first entered.”
Photos courtesy of Jen Walton