On Saturday, in the temple to America’s greatest defender of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, the US Park Police arrested several people who had gathered to quietly dance.
In 2008, Mary Oberwetter and some other people gathered to silently dance to celebrate Jefferson’s birthday one night. Park Police told them to stop, and when Oberwetter refused, she was arrested. A federal district court judge dismissed her lawsuit alleging this violated her First Amendment rights, and this month an appeals court agreed.
A number of individuals went to the memorial Saturday to protest the decision by dancing some more. Police told them they would be arrested if they chose to dance, then immediately did arrest one couple who appear to have broken off from the group and started dancing anyway.
That video excerpts from a longer one that shows the officers telling people they’d be arrested without further warning if anyone danced, then turning around and arresting a couple who had started very subtly shuffling back and forth while embracing in a somewhat dance-like way.
You also can see the officers roughing up and even choking a few people during the arrests. However, the man being choked did appear to be resisting arrest. As Don of We Love DC points out, the physical force started once one protestor tried to pull another one away from an officer trying to arrest him.
Like Don, I agree with the protestors’ mission. It’s ridiculous to preventing quiet dancing at the memorial under the argument that it should be reserved for “quiet contemplation,” especially since schoolkids are often quite rowdy. The government has an interest in stopping loud protests that might disrupt others, but to arrest that couple who are silently swaying back and forth in an embrace looks ridiculous. But protestors who physically fight the officers don’t help the cause.