WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Veteran and Tea Party groups protested the U.S. government shutdown in Washington on Sunday, taking down barricades around the World War Two 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, creating a brief flash-point of anger in an otherwise peaceful demonstration.
The White House protest, which involved hundreds of people, quickly dissipated and the demonstrators were replaced by tourists taking photos of themselves with camera phones.
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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 worries the government shutdown will soon affect the benefits and disability payments he relies on to feed his family.
"In a war, there's strategies," Armstrong told Reuters. "What they're doing is playing roulette with people's lives."
Sunday's rally started on the National Mall, which is home to U.S. war memorials and has been mainly closed to tourists since Oct. 1 when Congress failed to agree to continue funding the federal government, closing down services deemed "non-essential."
The rally included speeches from Sarah Palin, a hero of the conservative Tea Party movement and former Republican governor of Alaska, and Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican senator who has crusaded against Obama's healthcare law.
Melissa Mather, who heard about the rally from patriot groups she supports, called the memorial closure ``a slap in the face to all Americans'' and said she thinks that President Barack Obama and all lawmakers should resign.
"I just want to take them all and shake them,'' said Mather, from Havre de Grace, Maryland.