Civil Liberties

Shutdown Watch: Civil Disobedience on Federal Lands

People power in the parks.


It was clear from the first day that "government shutdown" would not mean "government getting out of the way"; if anything, the feds seem more intent on laying claim to the tasks and territories that they've monopolized. But not every American is playing along, The Washington Times reports:

Power to the people, right on.

Taking their lead from the veterans who first pushed through the barricades to visit the World War II Memorial, Americans nationwide are defying the federal government shutdown, tossing aside traffic cones and toppling wooden fences to get to national parks and other federal lands that the administration has deemed out of bounds.

As the shutdown hits the middle of its second week, civil disobedience has become a sensation. Some proudly post online photos of themselves overcoming the government's obstacles, and others use more subtle ways to make their point.

In Arizona, one road-stop inn is quietly giving visitors directions on how to use Forest Service roads to get a glimpse of the Grand Canyon, a national park that has been shut down.

In Washington, D.C., a South Carolina man said he has spent the past week picking up trash around the shuttered Lincoln Memorial, taking the place of National Park Service employees who have been furloughed.

In Massachusetts, Minuteman National Park is closed, but that hasn't stopped the leaf-peepers from crossing the barricades to watch as autumn blooms in the Northeast.

Some federal employees seem sympathetic: At that Massachusetts park, the authorities are "turning a blind eye to illegally parked cars and folks on the walking trails." In Arizona, on the other hand, "nearly two dozen people have been cited for entering Grand Canyon National Park during the shutdown."

And in D.C., the Bill of Rights is serving, yet again, as a limit on the government's power:

Your trump card is no match for a policeman's gun.

there is an opening—figuratively and literally—that visitors can use to gain access through the gate commemorating the Pacific theater.

Rangers told visitors Wednesday that they could not deny entry to anyone who wanted to exercise First Amendment rights, and could not interrogate visitors, which effectively means the monument is open to those aware of the loophole.

"The First Amendment trumps all," a Park Service ranger told visitors.

The exemption applies to monuments on the Mall, though visitors are not allowed inside the chambers of the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials because congregating there to exercise First Amendment rights is prohibited under Park Service regulations.

Oh: So apparently it doesn't trump all. But it's a help.

Update: A reader calling him/herself Bardas Phocas passes along a funny photoessay in Buzzfeed. Best line: "Just look at these Americans desecrating MLK's legacy through nonviolent protest of government barricades."