Seven-year-old Liam Benn ran up to Charlestown’s Bunker Hill Monument all smiles on Saturday afternoon.
“You can climb it!” the Rhode Island boy called to his great-aunt and cousin as they caught up. “I want to climb it!” But Liam hesitated at a laminated sign, zip-tied next to the entrance.
“Wait, what does that mean?” he asked.
“Government shutdown,” cousin Kim Benn, 38, read aloud.
“Thanks, Trump,” she added.
Across New England, residents and holiday visitors awoke Saturday morning to reduced services and temporarily shuttered federal sites, as the nation entered the first day of a partial government shutdown caused by a partisan stalemate over President Trump’s proposed border wall.
Many Boston historic sites remained in operation, according to the National Park Service, including the Freedom Trail, Old North Church, the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, and the USS Constitution.
But the Lowell National Historical Park was closed, as were other sites across the country, including the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas.
About 16,000 Park Service employees — approximately 80 percent of its workforce — are furloughed, as is almost the entire staff of NASA and about 52,000 IRS employees. Nationwide, about 420,000 federal employees were told to work without pay and another 380,000 told to stay home unpaid.
The partial shutdown comes as many families are traveling to be with loved ones or have already begun Christmas celebrations. For some federal workers and those employed by outside contractors serving the government, holiday festivities may have to be scaled back because of concerns about when the next paycheck will arrive.
Across the region, the Bunker Hill Monument wasn’t the only site off-limits to visitors. Dorchester’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was also shuttered, with a “Road Closed” sign posted on a gate outside the institution.
The library’s parking lot was empty Saturday afternoon, as cars with blinking turn signals reached that gate, slowed down, and then continued driving. But a few would-be visitors still climbed out of their cars and ambled to the door, where a paper sign read, “Due to a lapse in federal funding, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is closed.”
“Nooo!” said a woman from Somerville, laughing and taking pictures of the desolate plaza.
“I didn’t realize the shutdown was real serious,” said the woman, who was visiting with her husband and daughter but declined to give her name.
Google still listed the museum as open, they said, but the empty lot was a tip-off.
Julian, 49, was on a holiday visit from Los Angeles when he tried visiting the JFK Library.
“We were just going to go to the library, but we didn’t even think about” the government shutdown, he said. “It’s disappointing we couldn’t go.”
J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal workers, slammed Congress and the Trump administration for the shutdown, calling it “a completely avoidable waste of taxpayer dollars.”
“Today, Congress and the administration failed the American people when they decided to put partisan politics over country — and sadly we have a president that is ‘proud’ to have made it happen,” Cox said in a statement. “We elected these leaders to do their job and keep our government open, but now 40 percent of the federal workforce will go without a paycheck for as long as this stalemate lasts.”
Several members of Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation also spoke out, taking to social media to blame Trump for the shutdown.
US Congressman Seth Moulton, a Salem Democrat, harshly criticized Trump on Twitter, calling the shutdown “a political stunt to get American taxpayers to foot the bill for his ineffective border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.”
Bottom line: The President of the United States just shut down our government in a political stunt to get American taxpayers to foot the bill for his ineffective border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for. And he can’t even get enough votes in his own party to support him.— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) December 22, 2018
Senator Elizabeth Warren called out Trump for saying before the shutdown that he would be “proud” to close down the government rather than give in on funding for a border wall.
“Spending billions of taxpayer [dollars] on a stupid wall won’t make our country safer. Let’s be clear: this is a distraction to keep us divided,” the Cambridge Democrat wrote on Twitter.
.@realDonaldTrump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government. Now critical parts of the US gov & federal employees are getting hurt. Spending billions of taxpayer $ on a stupid wall won’t make our country safer. Let’s be clear: this is a distraction to keep us divided.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 22, 2018
Senator Edward J. Markey also spoke out on Twitter, calling the president “The Trump Who Stole Christmas” and declaring that “Mexico was never going to pay for [President Trump’s] racist wall,” despite his “repeated promises.”
Markey referred to allegations against Trump’s real estate empire, saying the president “has far more experience in not paying employees than in fulfilling his promises.”
Congresswoman Katherine Clark spoke out on the shutdown as it approached Friday night, calling it “dangerous” and “unnecessary” in a tweet.
The president used Twitter to defend his insistence that Congress fund construction of a border wall.
“The crisis of illegal activity at our Southern Border is real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall,” Trump tweeted.
The crisis of illegal activity at our Southern Border is real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall. Let work begin!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2018
In Charlestown, several frustrated visitors to the Bunker Hill Monument blamed the president for the partial shutdown.
“I am not happy with Trump,” said Susan Allens, 60, who was visiting from Charlotte, N.C. “I traveled so far, for what?”
“Thank you, Donald Trump,” Rachel Morin, 22, said sarcastically as she and her brother stopped by the monument on a first-time visit to New England from Annapolis, Md.
“Why is [Trump] throwing a fit right now?” asked Rachel Janny, 30, a self-proclaimed history buff from Seattle. “It’s interesting to be at one of the hearts of American history and have the government shut down.”
Among the most frustrated was young Liam Benn, who had so much wanted to climb the monument’s 294 steps.
“I’m very, very sad,” the boy said. “I’m very disappointed.”