Shutdown Rebels Defying Federal Orders to Close

PHOTO: Pisgah InnPlayCourtesy Pisgah Inn
WATCH Scenes From a Government Shutdown: Day 1

Call them the shut-down rebels: Individuals, businesses, cities and state agencies that are defying federal orders to shut down and go home. They are taking a page from the playbook of veterans who last week ignored "closed" signs at the WWII Memorial and--figuratively speaking—jumped the barricades.

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In North Carolina, Bruce O'Connell on Friday defied U.S. Park Service orders telling him to close down his inn and restaurant. O'Connell and his 90-year-old mother own the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville. Though the Inn is private, it sits on federal park land and is thus subject to Park Service orders.

When the government pronounced the park closed and last week ordered him to close up shop at the height of the fall foliage season, O'Connell at first complied and closed.

Then, though, he started getting angry.

Some news reports say it was the example of the rebellious veterans that prompted him to act, but he tells ABC News it was something more.


"It was a result of my having spent 35 years trying to work with the federal government, of my having been intimately involved as a contractor with the Secretary of the Interior and the Park Service. I've witnessed first-hand the process getting more and more dysfunctional over the decades."

Being told he had to close—because of the government's wrangling--was the last straw, he says. "I'd just reached my breaking point." He asked himself: "If not now, when; and if not me, who?"

So, on Friday, he re-opened. By Saturday, however, he was closed again—at the Park Service's insistence, enforced by armed rangers.

Sunday he posted a message on the Inn's website : "We have ceased operations. I am furious all over again. Rangers are guarding our parking lot 24/7 keeping visitors out. It is downright scary. What the heck is going on and how are we all allowing it? I call for action now. Enough is enough." Had the government allowed him to remain open, he says, he would have paid more than $30,000 to the federal government in October.

Asked where things stand now, he says simply, "We are closed. There are armed guards blocking access to my parking lot. Anybody who tries to get in, they get in front of them and tell them that they can't." He's asked the guards how long they intend to stay. "They told me: until we're 100 percent sure you won't re-open."

That could be a long wait, according to the angry innkeeper. He's gotten huge support from the local community, he says, and sympathetic emails are pouring in literally from all over the world. "I've gotten thousands of them," he says, "from here to Tokyo." Their message has been the same. "They all say: fight tyranny," he says.

Moving forward, he intends to take "every legally appropriate action." He is filing today for a temporary restraining order and will seek an injunction." With an injunction, he says, he could re-open until a court decides in his favor or the government's.

He's not the only one who doesn't want to fold his tent.

At Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in central Idaho, park employee Ted Stout has defied the shutdown to continue searching—on his own time and without pay—for a missing 63-year-old hiker. Stout told the Globe and Mail he and fellow workers would press on, despite deteriorating weather—and despite the federal furlough.

In Wisconsin, Cathy Stepp, secretary of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), has rejected a Park Service demand to close some state parks that receive partial funding from the federal government. She tells USA Today, "While things work their way out in Washington, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can here. Sometimes we have to rise above, and get that work done."


Stepp's press representative did not respond to a request from ABC News for further comment.

A DNR press release explains that although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed, for example, a portion of the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area, the DNR has elected to keep the rest of the area open. Stepp, in the release, urges hunters and naturalists, hikers and bikers to "get out and enjoy the 1.5 million acres of state-owned land in Wisconsin" despite the shutdown.

Finally, Mayor Vincent Gray of the District of Columbia has figured out a way to ensure that all city employees will receive pay regardless of the budget impasse. He has sent the Office of Management and Budget a letter declaring, by fiat, that all their activities are essential, and thus excepted from any lapse in appropriations.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to keep up with our fueding politicians, check out our full coverage here.