Federal Park Police hassled, tackled and arrested five people on Saturday for dancing at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. The group, led by Iraq War veteran and TV host Adam Kokesh, was protesting a May 17 ruling in a case that dates back to April 2008, when a group of young libertarians organized by the now kaput Bureaucrash decided to rendezvous at the memorial for a silent celebration of TJ's birthday. Here's the Spectator's writeup of the 2008 event:
So as not to disturb any fellow memorial visitors, the group -- which numbered about 20, fewer than the 25 that would require a permit -- opted to wear headphones and listen to their own iPods. As it turned out, the half-dozen or so unrelated onlookers who happened to be on-hand (the park is open 24 hours) appeared mostly amused by the spectacle.
SECURITY PERSONNEL MOST assuredly were not amused. Within two minutes of the event's start, they began moving to disperse the crowd, ordering the dancers to leave immediately, forcibly laying their hands on some and hurling profanities at others.
A few party-goers attempted to explain the nature of the event, but memorial staff were in no mood to discuss political theory. At 11:59, just four minutes after the event's start, U.S. Park Police had detained and were handcuffing the aforementioned "Jefferson 1" -- 28-year-old occasional Spectator contributor Brooke Oberwetter -- ostensibly for unauthorized dancing.
Or, as former Bureaucrash chief Jason Talley puts it, "One minute I'm taking video of people celebrating the freedoms etched in the walls surrounding us, the next we see armed agents of the state putting chains on a friend of ours."
On May 17, 2011, the D.C. Circuit "affirmed there is no constitutional right to dance at the Jefferson Memorial," so this weekend, Kokesh et al. decided to go dancing. They announced the plan on Facebook, and showed up at the memorial on Saturday in broad daylight. This is what happened:
According to the AP, the cops in question are now under investigation for their rough behavior:
The U.S. Park Police is investigating whether its officers were too aggressive in arresting five demonstrators who were dancing in protest over the weekend at the Jefferson Memorial. Videos posted online show the officers forcefully arresting the protesters Saturday afternoon. One officer is seen with his hands around a protester’s throat, and a demonstrator is also shown being slammed to the ground.
As Radley Balko reported in 2008, Park Police weren't especially kind the first time around, either. When asked what Oberwetter (a past Reason contributor who now works for Facebook) was being charged with, the arresting officer told the other dancers to "shut the fuck up."