Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dancing arrests at the Jefferson Memorial

Some heavy-handed arrests at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC on Saturday.

It was the latest in a saga that started in 2008 when Mary Oberwetter and a group of friends celebrated President Jefferson's 265th birthday by dancing silently at the memorial while listening to music through headphones. Police ordered them to stop and arrested them when they didn't. Oberwetter sued on free speech grounds, but last week the appeals court ruled that her conduct was prohibited "because it stands out as a type of performance, creating its own center of attention and distracting from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration".

So some others called a silent dancing flashmob last weekend at the same location. By the looks of it it was a low key event with just a few people dancing, but the Parks police response was vicious with 5 arrests including one guy slammed down on the floor seconds after singing a version of Men Without Hats' 'Safety Dance':

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
Cause the cops won't dance [it's 'friends' not 'cops' in the original]
And if they don't dance
Well they're no friends of mine

(OK it seems that the guy getting thrown to the floor is Adam Kokesh, self-publicist with a decidely odd cocktail of political beliefs. Just to be clear, arrests like these are not evidence of 'Obama's communist police state' as right wing 'libertarians' suggest, but they do raise some fundamental questions about the boundaries of freedom - as the original court case highlighted, what is the distinction between 'freedom of speech' and freedom of movement of the body in a public place?).


David K Wayne said...

Saddo's correction corner:

I think you mean 'Safety Dance' ("you can dance if you wannoo") by Men Without Hats, Not Men at Work.

Transpontine said...

Thanks, I stand corrected, and have corrected the post. But in my defence I note that this same elementary error is repeated all over the internet!