ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- "I did something special," Eric Masurier said.
Masurier is from France, but he now lives in Clermont, Florida. Monday he was visiting St. Augustine, and he wanted to go to the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. However, he found the fort was closed due to the government shutdown.
"I said, 'Why could I not get into the fort when you pay taxes?'"
The closed sign on the gate at the fort did not stop him.
"I said to people, 'Let's jump the gate!' And I went, I jumped the gate, and people followed me," Masurier said. "I think American people love the thing when someone's doing something...of following!"
According to Kim Mayo with the National Park Service, 13 adults and two children went into the fort Monday afternoon.
They got all the way inside, almost to the upper level, she said.
Masurier's friend took a photo of the people on the bridge in the fort that is closed-off due to the shutdown.
Masurier said, "Five minutes after [we entered], the sheriff came, said, 'How'd you get in here?' I said, 'Well, I got in by the gate. I jumped the gate and they jumped the gate.'"
Masurier said the gate jumpers then had to wait for a park ranger to arrive.
"They put us in line and we were waiting for the park ranger to come tell us what she's going to do with us. Everybody was like, 'Ummm. What are they going to do with us?'"
Mayo arrived and she said she told them they could've each been fined $150 dollars, but they all admitted being wrong and so she let them go with a verbal warning.
"You know what, what she did was perfect," Masurier noted.
Mayo said it was not an organized effort like at other national parks. She said it was just different families who followed one person's lead.
"...which we did because I think we need to do it to show the government that we are tired of this," Masurier explained.
Disappointed visitors outside the fort's gates Tuesday agreed with the group's actions.
Visitors said things such as, "Well, good for them" and "I wouldn't do it myself but I do not blame them for doing it."
Recalling his actions, Masurier said "What I did, I know it's not the right thing to do. But when you're tired of all this with the government and everything, I think you need to step in and make a change."
First Coast News