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Government shutdown prompts acts of defiance across U.S.

The U.S. Capitol dome is reflected in water on Capitol Hill in Washington after the U.S. government shutdown, October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Larry
The U.S. Capitol dome is reflected in water on Capitol Hill in Washington after the U.S. government shutdown, October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Larry

By Colleen Jenkins

(Reuters) - As the U.S. government shutdown enters its second week, squeezed businessmen, exasperated citizens and even a few fed-up politicians have joined forces across the United States in acts of defiance large and small.

From re-opening monuments and scaling park barricades to hiring lawyers, individuals and institutions have stopped waiting for the House Republicans and the White House to end the feud that has tied up many government services.

In North Carolina, innkeeper Bruce O'Connell drew national attention when he briefly reopened the Pisgah Inn, a scenic spot 5,000 feet above sea level on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The inn was ordered shut by the National Park Service last week because it sits on government property.

After a brief moment of defiance, the innkeeper reluctantly closed down again, but he has hired lawyers to seek permission from a federal judge to reopen and put his nearly 100 employees back to work during what is typically their busiest season.

"We're not giving up," O'Connell said on Tuesday. "We're fighting harder and harder by the minute."

He was among many across the country taking a stand against the shutdown, a result of Republicans' efforts to delay parts of President Barack Obama's healthcare law.

Among its wide-reaching effects, the shutdown sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers home without pay, shuttered Head Start learning programs for children in six states, slowed aid to families of U.S. troops killed overseas and closed national parks.

Even some state agencies are defying the shutdown. Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources, under Republican Governor Scott Walker, has ignored a federal directive to close seven state park properties that get funding from the federal government.

Despite a call on Monday from the National Park Service saying it hoped the state would abide by the service's original instructions, Wisconsin is standing firm. It says only 18 percent of parks' funding, or about $700,000, comes from the federal government.

"We said firmly but respectfully we're going to keep going," said department Secretary Cathy Stepp on Tuesday. "We have people come here from around the country to see the fall colors, to see migratory birds, for duck hunting. We're open."

BREAKING BARRIERS

For war veterans who had scheduled visits to monuments, the barriers came down eventually with an assist from the park service itself. About 25 World War Two and Korean War veterans from the St. Louis-area and elsewhere were allowed to visit the National World War Two Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

The park service removed barricades and ushered the groups in just as it had for hundreds of veterans last week, citing the Constitution's First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

The veterans groups were joined by U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Tuesday and also toured the Korean War Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.

"You talk to your Congressman and you talk to your senator and you get the feeling they are doing everything they can to get the government squared away," said Steve Chalmers, 82, who served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War. "But the fact of the matter is they still haven't gotten it down."

Some other citizens - even in the face of obstacles - refused to back down. An estimated 1,000 hikers and bikers entered Acadia National Park in Maine on Monday, bypassing barricades and signs declaring the park and its roads closed, according to local media reports.

A skeleton crew of rangers issued trespassing citations to some of the visitors who were camping or entering the park in vehicles, the Portland Press Herald said.

Still others are organizing protests they hope will draw attention to the financial damage to businesses caused by the shutdown.

Dozens of fishing guides in Florida's Everglades planned to gather on the outskirts of the national park on Wednesday to protest its closing, which has forced many to cancel guided trips and lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in income.

Charter captain Matt Bellinger said he expected more than 100 boats filled with fisherman and hospitality workers to join forces. They will demonstrate against the closing of the massive wetland as well as the waters of Florida Bay, an 800-square-mile area of world-class fishing between the southern tip of the mainland and the Florida Keys.

"The Rangers actually left the park last week to come to marinas to tell us to stay out," Bellinger said. "They spent the money they don't have on fuel, on labor to tell us to stay out."

(Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson, Dave Sherwood, Zachary Fagenson, Mary Wisniewski and Ian Simpson; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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