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Hikers Hop Gate At Closed National Park To Protest Shutdown

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View of the Court of the Patriarchs inside the Zion National Park in Utah on March 10, 2011. (credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

View of the Court of the Patriarchs inside the Zion National Park in Utah on March 10, 2011. (credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

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SPRINGDALE, Utah (AP) — Despite being warned about possible federal citations, 16 hikers hopped a gate at closed Zion National Park in southern Utah to protest the partial government shutdown.

James Milligan, manager of Springdale’s Zion Outfitter store, said he helped organize Saturday’s peaceful act of civil disobedience called “Occupy Zion” to let the government know what locals think about the shutdown.

“Obviously, I’m not too happy about it,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune. “This shop is my livelihood here, and I haven’t had a customer in a week. Rangers will get their back pay, but what will people in these communities get?”

Park rangers greeted protesters at the gate, photographed them, and advised that the park was closed and they may be cited. People who enter the park during the shutdown can face a federal misdemeanor charge of trespassing, but no citations were immediately issued, said Zion National Park spokeswoman Aly Baltrus.

“We are simply observing and taking pictures,” Baltrus told The Spectrum of St. George. “We are trying to let people know they can get tickets and can be cited later.”

Ignoring a “Do Not Enter” sign on the gate, the protesters walked about 2 miles up the Pa’rus Trail and then turned around. They filled a garbage bag with trash along the way.

Protester Melissa Norris, of St. George, called the empty park both eerie and beautiful, “like Zion used to be 20 years ago.” She said her visit was worth any ticket she might face.

“I’m concerned, of course, but I knew there were consequences coming in,” she told the Deseret News. “Shoot, if I have a record at 47 because I made a statement, then I have a record at 47.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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