War veterans protest at White House over US government shutdown
Veteran and "tea party" groups protested over the government shutdown in Washington, taking down barricades around the second world war memorial on the National Mall before marching to the gates of the White House.
Police officers, some in riot gear, pushed back against the crowd when it got too close to the White House fence on Sunday, creating a brief flashpoint of anger in an otherwise peaceful demonstration. The White House protest, which involved hundreds of people, quickly broke up.
Don Armstrong, a veteran who served in Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan from 1993 to 2006, said he drove to the protest from his home in West Virginia because he was worried that the government shutdown would soon affect the benefits and disability payments he relied on to feed his family.
"In a war, there's strategies," Armstrong said. "What they're doing is playing roulette with people's lives."
Sunday's rally started on the National Mall, which is home to US war memorials and has been mainly closed to tourists since October 1, when Congress failed to agree to continue funding the federal government, closing down services which were deemed "non-essential".
The rally included speeches from Sarah Palin, a "tea party" hero and former Republican governor of Alaska, and Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican senator who has crusaded against President Barack Obama's health care law.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told Congress last week that veterans' benefits would end on November 1 if the shutdown was not resolved soon.
The shutdown has also affected the Defence Department's ability to pay death benefits to the families of military personnel killed in action, but the Pentagon struck a deal with a private charity to make the US$100,000 payments during the shutdown.