Washington’s treatment of the government shutdown has been one of the most shocking moments of the Obama Administration. After the issue of Obamacare prevented an agreement from being reached on a budget, and sent the government into shutdown, the Obama Administration decided upon a number of highly controversial actions, from closing national parks – even when state governments offered to take over their funding – to turning off the amber alert website.
One of the biggest conflicts regarded the government’s shutting down taxpayer funded monuments. These largely open air monuments require virtually no federal money at this point, but the government fenced them off and even posted armed guards to keep people out. Even when WWII veterans attempted to make their annual trip to the WWII memorial, they were not allowed to enter, and when some pushed through, others were still kept out.
The federal government has shut down under almost every president in recent history, but none of these actions have been taken by other administrations. In addition, the government has only cut spending by 17%. This has caused many people to feel that the actions were taken out of spite, and that the administration was either throwing a temper tantrum or flexing its muscles, showing people not to oppose its ideas.
This has prompted a group of citizens to organize a march – planned for noon this Saturday in front of the Lincoln Memorial – to protest the Administration’s barricading of open-air parks and monuments. The Free DC Project was formed by Iowa activist Joel Kurtinitis. “People are tired of being used as pawns in the political chess games of Washington,” he said, also explaining that “The purpose [of the event] is to remind the American People that we are citizens, not subjects, and that no party or president has the right to take from us what is ours.”
That’s the core of the conflict. The Obama Administration is attempting to illustrate – in a vindictive manner – how necessary the government is, and the problems the government can cause for people. These monuments are largely unmanned, and some were built using mostly private donations, while others were built using taxpayer money. In both cases, the government is actually spending more money to keep people out of the parks and monuments than it normally does letting them in.
The Obama Administration’s actions raise an interesting question, though. How much control should the federal government have over taxpayer-funded, open air monuments? When Kurtinitis said we are citizens, not subjects, he really delved to the heart of the issue. By keeping people out of areas their money funded, the government is indicating that it sees itself as controlling the people, rather than serving them.
I caught up with Joel Kurtinitis, the organizer of this project to ask him a few questions about the event. Listen to the interview below.
Hashtag #freeDC (for all things pertaining to park and monument shutdown)
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