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A dozen Navajos blockaded Rainbow Bridge National Monument, saying they have the right to close the natural stone bridge at any time while conducting religious ceremonies.

The bridge is on the eastern shore of Lake Powell in southern Utah near its border with Arizona and is accessible only by boat or foot.The group said it was taking possession of the monument on behalf of the Navajo people in order to conduct "religious cleansing ceremonies."

A call to tribal headquarters seeking comment drew no response.

The superintendent with the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes the monument, said the protesters draped a rope across a portion of the formation with a sign reading "closed" and told visitors to go away.

The group plans to stay for four days to hold the ceremonies, he said.

A statement issued by the group calling itself Protectors of the Rainbow said the cleansing ceremonies are necessary because of the way the National Park Service has allowed Rainbow Bridge to be used.

The protesters said five tribes hold the bridge sacred but didn't identify them.

Alston said his office is willing to negotiate with the group.