Tourists in National Parks are moving cones and jumping barricades to get inside monuments, malls, and parks, despite the government shutdown.
Gate-crashers at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center posted pictures of themselves on Twitter tagged “Catch Us If You Can.” Visitors at Zion and Badlands are moving road cones and proceeding into the parks.
The civil disobedience is being ratcheted up after a pro-immigrant rally was allowed to take place on the National Mall in D.C., where days earlier veterans had to break in to get to the WWII Memorial.
As the eighth day of the shutdown begins, the National Park Service is issuing tickets to tourists and runners they catch inside closed parks.
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It’s still unclear whether closure protocol allows rangers to remove trespassers, ticket them, or even arrest them.
About 20 tickets have been issued at Valley Forge National Historic Park alone.
John Bell, 56, was issued a $100 ticket for taking a run there on Sunday.
“I just went for a run like I always do,” said Bell. “I’m a marathon runner. I’ve been going down to Valley Forge for probably 25 years. I had no idea the park was even closed.”
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He says he plans to fight the ticket in federal court.
The fact that people can accidently end up on federal land without going through one of the entrances presents a “a huge gray area” says land policy expert Dale Goble.
According to a 1981 memo by budget Director David Stockman, during a federal shutdown, it must keep policing and protecting “federal lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the United States.”
Visitors could be seen as a distraction to the efforts of the remaining rangers. Only 3,000 Park Service staff are still on duty. About 20,000 were furloughed.
The attacks on the Park Service appear to be political. More than 300 parks closed during the shutdown in 1995 and 1996 without incident.
Groups like the Sierra Club have been critical of the fact that parks have closed, but gas and oil drilling in those parks continues.