DC dance protest ends with arrests, cries of “This is a police state!”

DC dance protest ends with arrests, cries of “This is a police state!”

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington is a popular tourist destination, but on this Memorial Day weekend, it was also the scene of a memorable protest that’s worth paying attention to.

A court recently ruled that expressive dancing was in a category with picketing, speech making, and marching – a banned activity at national memorials.

Several protesters decided to challenge the decision on Saturday afternoon with a protest organized through social media (here’s the Facebook page, the Twitter hashtag and blog.)

Their dance inside the rotunda of the memorial didn’t last long. Park police quickly arrested the protesters. Here’s another camera angle of the event.

This NBC report has some of the best footage of the protest.

Whether you agree with these activists or not, I think there are a few things about this that are noteworthy and that could affect travelers.

First, there’s the deep irony of the event. Jefferson, a man who once said, “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” may be a hero to the protesters, and indeed to many of us, but you don’t have to be politically active to be aware of the absurdity of the “no dance” ruling at, of all places, the Jefferson monument. TJ is probably spinning in his grave.

Second, the fact that people taping the event were threatened by the park police — you can see that in the first video — is troubling. There’s no rule I’m aware of against filming in the park. Here are the Park Service guidelines for photography.

Also, the apparent brutality of the arrests should concern anyone, regardless of party affiliation. Wrestling a dancer to the ground? Putting someone in a chokehold? Come on. I thought that kind of thing only happens in a police state. Maybe I’m not fully appreciating the danger these protesters caused.

Finally, what it means to all of us? My family visited the Jefferson Memorial on a blistering hot August day last year, and my middle child likes to move a lot. It could be interpreted as dancing by park police. Are they going to cuff a six-year-old for shuffling around a national monument?

More bothersome to me is the apparently heavy-handedness with which law enforcement dealt with this minor infraction of national park decorum. If this is what they do for dancing, I’d hate to see how they’d treat someone who is littering or jaywalking.

Another protest is planned June 4. Perhaps that one will end differently.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    We laud protesters abroad who demonstrate in other countries, while denying our people our own rights here at home.  Our hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    Welcome to Amerika.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    I especially liked the poor kid who was body slammed while he was just standing there watching.  And you’re right, absolutely right, that the foundation of this country has been resistance.  Thomas Jefferson, I’m sure, would have seen what the protesters did to be a fundamental right as an American.

    Well done, Chris.

  • Bill

    It is a stupid thing where someone sees a sign that says “no U turn” and so does one in the shape of an “S”.

    The monument is there for people to enjoy, not to see people inconsiderately pushing the limits by dancing where you’re not supposed to dance.

    There are mechanisms in the United States to protest and to have freedom of speech.  It is not necessary to act out foolish dance steps at national monuments to “push the limit” on a law which is designed to protect the rights of others.

    Many people travel a long way to see Washington and these monuments, it would not be pleasant if there were protests at them 90% of the time.

    America is far from a police state and this stupid little tirade is like a bunch of four year olds throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way.

  • Lonnie

    I wonder what would have happened if some of  the dancers were military who had served in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.  How would they feel abut our own Democracy?  To so over react to something as harmless as “dancing” seems way out of line.  What is happening to our country?  Where did our senses of humor and tolerance go?  How very sad….

  • Sylviaguarino

    There are lots of protest worthy situations in the USA but protesting a “no dance” regulation at a national monument seems like a monumental waste of time for both protesters and police.  The police went overboard in my opinion, but they are there to enforce the rules and the rules are clear, no dancing or other activities that violate the expressed use of the memorial as calm and reverent environment.  I am not overly fond of police, but silly protests and frivolous law suits are a bigger bother in the overall picture.

  • Sara

    Regarding the rules about photography, you need a permit to photograph for commercial purposes (and the link you posted confirms this).  I have very nice equipment, even though I’m an amateur photographer, and I’m sometimes asked when I’m at the monuments to not photograph or show my permit.  I always just explain that I’m photographing for my personal use (which is true), and then they leave me alone.

  • Jerry

    It’s hard to tell since I wasn’t there and the video doesn’t tell the whole story, but it seems like the police were reasonable. They asked the protestors to stop and clearly told them the consequences if they continued. I didn’t see brutality, Rodney King-style or otherwise. Why couldn’t the protestors dance outside the memorial, nearby, where they could still be seen yet be within the law?

    And come on Chris, there’s big difference between your six-year-old moving and shuffling and a group of demonstrators intentionally violating the law while wearing shirts that say “Disobey”.

    I appreciate your continuing TSA coverage and agree that that agency has far exceeded reasonable bounds, but this one is not even close.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Adam Kokesh served in Iraq.  He is a Marine vet and a member of a veterans anti-war group.

    He has a right to dance, kiss, hug, snog, somersault, or stand on his head if he wants — as do we all — at OUR public monuments.  He was standing up for those rights not only for himself but also for all the people in this thread who don’t get it.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    The Photographer’s Right
    A Downloadable Flyer Explaining Your Rights When Stopped or Confronted for Photography

    Furthermore, the NBC cameraman — and other members of the press — have press passes.  They don’t need a “permit” to go about their perfectly legal jobs or to retain their Constitutionally protected right to freedom of the press.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Lonnie, see my comment above.  Adam Kokesh, one of the dancers, served in Iraq.

  • Sara

    Here is part of the ruling from U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thomas B. Griffith explaining why you can’t dance in the memorial:
    “[Dancing in the memorial is] prohibited because it stands out as a type
    of performance, creating its own center of attention and distracting
    from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration that the Regulations are
    designed to preserve.”
    These people knew the consequences of their actions.  I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but if you want to dance that badly, go down the steps of the memorial.
    You can read the whole ruling here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/55659362/10-5078-1308285

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Yes, they “knew the consequences of their actions.”  That’s the point of civil disobedience.  That’s what it is.  Just because a law exists — or bullsh*t regulations — doesn’t mean that, therefore, they are just.

  • Randl

    While the policeman coming and telling the person that they will be arrested if they continued filming was troubling, much of the rest of the video showed a police forece that showed a great deal of restraint in dealing with these protesters.  They were first asked to stop, then warned if they did not stop, that there would be consequences.

    Chris, you mentioned the takedown of the one protester.  From the looks of it to me, the policeman was speaking with the protester and my guess was warning him about what would happen next.  When he pulled away and struggled with the official, the protester was taken into custody.

    As for your six year old moving around a bit?  I think you took this to a far extreme example to try and make a point.  These were obviously people that were trying to push the limits of what the courts have decided.  If they do not like the limits, work to change them……through their lawmakers.  Get the law changed.  Don’t fight with guys that are simply enforcing their employers’ rules.

  • Sara

    Then show your displeasure during the next election cycle by not voting for the people who appointed this judge, or who pass these kinds of laws.  Or with your wallet by not buying products of companies that give money to those people.  But what good does purposefully breaking the law, and then bi*ching about that law do?

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    There are many ways to protest, not just one.  Voting for either party at this point strikes me (and many other activists) as pointless.  Both are corrupt.  Both are beholden to corporate interests.  Both do the bidding of their moneyed overlords; if they don’t, they won’t stay in office.

    Regardless, civil disobedience is a proud, noble, and effective protest tradition.  It doesn’t accomplish its ends overnight.

  • cjr001

    Unfortunately, as the Photography Is Not A Crime blog proves time and again, the police, TSA, and so on care little about the laws that are in place to protect photographing and filming.

    Not to mention, police brutality, even if it is not on the rise, it’s certainly being outed more frequently because of photos and videos. And that’s the reason police are trying to ignore the laws more frequently with regards to our rights.

    To go back to a column you wrote a while back: “Are we in a police state?”

    It certainly feels more and more like it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    Dancing is my major mode of expression in life, and dancing should never be banned.  I’ve said it before: these people read 1984 like an instruction manual.    I will be there on June 4 to dance my protest.

  • cjr001

    What if a soldier stands there and salutes for an hour on end, and a crowd gathers, thus becoming the ‘center of attention’ and ‘distracting’ others.

    Does it not also become a performance? Would police also put said soldier in a choke hold to get them to stop?

    Who is harmed by this? Nobody.

  • MarkieA

    The point, I believe, is that the folks here believe the “no dancing at a memorial” law is an infringement of our right to peaceful public expression. Just because the consequences of their action were explained to them doesn’t make it OK. If a law was passed that made it illegal to kiss someone in public because it was a “distraction”, and you were told that you would go to jail if you did, does that then make the arrest OK? After all, you were warned. Peaceful public protest is a powerful tool, one that can – and has – led to your preferred method; turnout of voters, which is the ultimate tool of change. However, this kind of demonstration is sometimes needed as the spark. I, for one, had no idea that this law was in place, and I bet you didn’t, either. But because of this protest, we do know about it now and can demand action of our Representatives.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Sommer, let’s carpool.  I, too, love to dance.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Take a look at just these two links — yes, police brutality and overreach are on the rise:

    From Guardian columnist Jennifer Abel:
    Arizona Cops Murder Iraq War Veteran

    And from today’s New York Times:
    For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target

  • eriklorna

    I my humble opinion, Police Officers are now due Less respect than even Politicians, They’re pathological Liars on the Witness stands of America’s courtrooms, and many cops now carry “drop guns” which they routinely leave at the site of crimes, when they make a bad bust.

    America’s Firemen are the real Heroes of this Country, they’re Not afraid to go into the “line of fire” literally, whereas cops wait and hide until the Crime is committed (think the Columbine School killings in Colorado), and then they go in after the danger has passed. Again America’s Firemen are the real Heroes of our Country.

    And no, I have Not had a bad experience with cops, because I have no need for them and give them “wide berth”.  Their need to control “others” is Pathological in Nature.  They should learn to correct their own warped-minds, and control themselves.

    Anybody care to differ?

  • rikitikitavi

    Is this a great post, or what?

  • Jerry

    I think I understand their point, and I support and approve of their right to peaceful public expression. However, there are times and places where public expression is appropriate, and others where it is not. For example, I think most would agree that certain types of expression are not appropriate in a cemetery. I personally do not think certain types of expression are appropriate in a church (though there are entire denominations that disagree with me on that).

    In my opinion, this particular demonstration is an instance of another problem in our society, namely lack of respect; in this case, respect for the monument, and respect for other visitors. I realize the demonstrators would disagree with me and even argue that they are drawing attention to the point of the monument.

    I guess I wish they would direct their energies toward things like the unnecessary (and, arguably, unconstitutional) invasiveness of the TSA, or as another poster mentioned, the increasing harassment of photographers as though they were terrorists.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Given that two of the arrested dancers are Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry of CodePink, you can rest assured that they are directing their energies towards fighting all sorts of abuses by our government, including the ones you mention.

    “Time and a place” for free, non-violent, silent expression??  They were silently moving.  What constitutes dancing to the cops anyway?  Couldn’t shifting your weight from one foot to the other be considered dancing?  Hell, I was doing just that in line at a security checkpoint and got yelled at by a TSA goon.  Maybe I was dancing without knowing it.  Or perhaps I was a flight risk.

    No one is urging disrespect.  That’s not what this was about.  The only people disrespecting the Jefferson Memorial were the police.

    “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.” -Thomas Jefferson

  • Karlakatz


  • Karlakatz

    to amplify: dancing pigs

  • Philip

    My feeling has always been that Americans are ignorant of our laws; some being good and some being very very bad. Our history, from the Revolution on, has been that the meanings of the laws are only brought to the attention of all us by protests. One of the bulwarks of our Constitution. And every law must be tested from time to time. Ironically, that determination  is up to the Supreme Court (that I often disagree with). So, where do we go?
    One comment above was to take your grievance to your Congress Person. That could be laughable when they also make up their own misinterpretation of our laws. Only through mass protests can Americans realize how oppressive and restrictive our laws can be when they need not be. Are the philosophies of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nathan Hale who gave up his life for his beliefs, forgotten?
    I am sure “The Dancers” considered that their actions would be controversial and lead to jail.  I am not sure from the videos played here explain their actual intent.
    What is most egregious to me is the absurd, idiotic, brutality of the Park Police. Handcuffing is not difficult to do when a person is standing up, but to pick a person up and slamming him/her to the floor is the height of brutality.
    Especially the attitude of the Police not to answer the question of “Why am I being arrested, and on what charge?”  I would think, asking them to recite the law verbatim, they would be unable to do so.
    They have the power (and the muscle) to arrest the ‘so called protestors’ and confine them to jail until they appear before a judge and are formally charged. Bear in mind the important fact that they are “innocent until found guilty.”
    What I see in the videos is beyond good sense and is definitely ‘police brutality.’  This was not was not a guns and bomb attack on the Jefferson Memorial.  “The Protest” could have been handled in a more sane way.
    At the very least, their point was made and important that it gives the public
    (Americans) the ability to think and to continue to question how authentic our liberties are.
    My last comment is the meaning of a “Memorial?”  Both Jefferson and Lincoln could have been buried with a simple headstone.  The way their ‘memorial’ has been designed is more to emphasize what they stood for. The walls leave us with their historic and future beliefs with quotes of the true meanings of democracy.


  • rikitikitavi

    What! No “chit-chat”?
    Is it something I said?

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Erik, the police overstepped their bounds in this case and yes, often do it in general.  I posted a couple of relevant links elsewhere in this thread.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    See video times: 2:06, 3:02, 3:14, 4:18, 8:28, 8:40-5
    I saw a chokehold, two chokings, 1 body slam and several knees to the back of the head.  All of those qualify as brutality in my book.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I just got home from attending church, where we sang patriotic songs and remembered our armed forces, and from the Communion service I conduct for a retirement community, many of whom are either veterans or were/are military spouses, parents and grandparents.  My mother and 3 siblings are all military vets.  A U.S. flag flies 24/7/365 in front of my house.  I tell you all this so that you understand I’m fairly conservative and patriotic.  But . . .

    If it weren’t for civil disobedience, this country would never have been founded.  If it weren’t for civil disobedience, women would never have gained the right to vote.  If it weren’t for civil disobedience, we’d still be a nation of whites and coloreds.

    I am so sorry that the visitors to the Jefferson Monument didn’t realize the irony of their complaints about having to wait to visit the monument to the writer of the Declaration of Indepence because a group of people were pursuing “life, liberty and . . . happiness.”

    The protesters should have been ticketed or perhaps arrested and then released.  They were, after all, acting contrary to law.  However, the police response to their actions was out of proportion to the offense. 

    God Bless America.  It sorely needs the blessing.

  • Lindale

    Shocked. It made me cry to see what America has become. 

  • Lindale

    I don’t think Chris is far off.  I constantly move and have since very young.  I think some might think of it as dancing.   I have never thought of it as expressive dancing but the police in the video might.

  • http://badbadwebbis.wordpress.com/ badbadwebbis

    I’m a little hesitant to say anything, but are you not supposed to get a permit to hold a protest? And isn’t it illegal to protest at a national monument? I suppose I would be aggrieved by all of this if they had been legally protesting, but part of the issue with civil disobedience (which this is, as opposed to a peaceful protest, since by definition an illegal protest will result in at least the detaining of the protesters and probably won’t be peaceful) is that you should be willing to accept the consequences of breaking the law in order to make a larger point.

    The police made several mistakes, not least among them the mild threats against the people filming and photographing and the statement of ‘you’ll find out’ when asked what law the protesters were breaking. That sounded fishy. Not to defend the police actions too far, but I would point out that the guy in the brown shirt who prevented the cuffing of the guy in the white shirt was in fact resisting arrest, which was perhaps less effective than simply speaking about the injustice of the arrest. Additionally, the guy in the sunglasses refused to cooperate and got (too violently) restrained. However, I will point out that the police are trained to deal with uncertain situations, and they had no assurance that these people weren’t armed or unstable.

    The protest might have been more effective if they had protested in a legal area. I’m not a fan of police violence, but I think also that if you know you might get arrested, you probably shouldn’t provoke the police by resisting it.

  • cjr001

    I’ve had good dealings with cops, I’ve had bad dealings. I’ve got an uncle who’s a cop, but no firefighters. (And FWIW, I’ve got other family in the military, including a brother serving in Afghanistan at the moment.)

    Even with all the bad out there, I try to not paint all cops with the same wide brush. Unlike the likes of TSA, these men and women go through real training and most of them perform their duties with honor.

    Yes, too many of them are too power hungry with the way they handle situations. But, no, I don’t think cops by and large are worse than politicians (and lawyers, let’s not forget them).

  • Fishplate

    ” But what good does purposefully breaking the law, and then bi*ching about that law do?”

    Well, one thing is that it publicizes the existence of the law and the lengths to which the government will go to enforce it, no matter how silly it may seem.

    Kind of like sitting at a Woolworth’s lunch counter, it’s a way of changing things..

  • Cliffordpwoodrick

    I have spent 26 years in the US Navy and I find the Judge’s Decision absurd about dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. They did not appear to be making noise or interfering with the other visitors. If they stripped and appeared naked then I would agree with the officers but not with was shown. I would appeal this stupid decision to the Court of Apeals.
    This is NOT what I served in the military to see in our Capital.
    Have a wonderful day – Cliff

  • Citizen Twain

    This country has turned into a fascist state.  God help us.

  • Joe Farrell

    Judy Coulter- this is just law enforcement trying to do their job, right? Trying to keep us safe.  Where are the TSA apologists?  Why? You say.  What does the TSA have to do with park protests?  


    The line between police state tactics such as these and the TSA is direct and straight. Case after case after from the Supreme Court tells the police their their mere suspicion that nefarious conduct is afoot, without any real facts, is enough to take the constitutional rights of our citizens away. The police are able to exercise extreme tactics because they are ‘just there to keep us all safe.’  I’d rather live in a nation of hippies than a nation of enforcers.  Yes, I am a conservative but I believe that the people retain the rights-  not the government. 

    The TSA ends up as the beneficiary of this security bias because whatever they say, no matter how brainless, no matter how silly and unrelated to common sense, no matter how stupid their claims are, the courts will support them because they are just keeping us safe, right? 

  • Joe Farrell

    “Not supposed to dance?”  Why?  Whats the harm?  Whats it matter to you if someone wants to dance, protest or do anything else that is not destructive to property or other people.  You are in DC – the seat of government of the leader of Western Democracies.  Seriously?  We are going to smack around people who are dancing or peacefully protesting in the seat of that government?  Really?  THAT is the nation you want to live in? 

    Having a pleasant visit is the last thing on my mind when I see these videos. 

    If you do not like the dancing protesters, IGNORE THEM.  I agree that if you wish to protest at the monuments you should have a permit for more than 10 people  – under that – you may protest anywhere that does not directly interfere with the normal operations. 

    Its much more dangerous to our Republic allowing the police to act as they act here without any limit than to allow dancing protesters and inconveniencing tourists who come to DC to look at the monuments. . . . and if you don’t see that. . ..  then you have never taken an oath to defend the Constitution, and if you did, you certainly did not understand what it meant.

  • Joe Farrell

    My response to you Sara, is:

    The Freedom Riders.


    Rosa Parks.

    Martin Luther King.

    Anyone else who stood up for what was right instead of what was legal . . .

    Do you propose that the voters who agreed with civil rights were able in the cities in the north and the south to affect social mores and Jim Crow laws with the ballot box?  Really?  What is right sometimes takes a long time to become legal . . . .

  • zip alegria

    Dancing?! where?!! damn kids!! dancing is the devil! Dancing only leads to… well not happiness that’s for damn sure!

  • zip alegria

    I didn’t see these guys pelvic thrusting.

  • zip alegria

    I didn’t see these guys pelvic thrusting. 

  • Lonnie


    I just found the video terribly disturbing.  So what if some people want to dance – or speak – or laugh – or whatever.  They were doing no harm.  I’m 71, never in the military (in the 60s because of my age I “fell between the cracks”), and I guess I’m supposed to resent these young people, but neither my wife nor I felt that the security guards did the right thing.  In fact, the kids looked a lot more mature than the McCops.

    Glad you agreed.


  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone
  • Joe Farrell

    Plus, Jeanne, you forgot the threat from the police to those filming their conduct . . . that qualifies as violations of their oath to the defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Jeanne – extremely well said.  Brava.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    Um, I don’t think the police take the same oath as the military…  When I took my oath upon joining the military, I remember saying, “… defend the constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.”

    I don’t believe LEOs take that same oath.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    However, photography and/or filming at national parks does require a permit if it’s for commercial purposes.  The cost is $150.  I was doing a story once on Carlsbad Caverns in NM.  I went ahead and used their photos, taking a hit financially, because I can’t afford $150 every time I write a story about a national park.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    This wasn’t truly about “the dance” but about “freedom of expression”.  The person originally arrested in 2008 could have burned incense, played the national anthem on a turntable, posted drawings, sung a song from the film “1776”, whatever…  The form of expression she chose was “expressive dance”.  That’s why this is the current mode of expression.

  • Zeke Kersey

    So if there’s no dancing at national monuments why the hell are the politicians allowed to dance after state dinners? Arrest the President and First Lady IMMEDIATELY, NPS.

  • Sylviaguarino

    I think I understand that but appreciate your clarification as well as the reference to the 2008 incident.  What I am questioning is the whole concept of freedom of expression in a public “monument”.  My concept of freedom of expression has always been based on the analogy of my right to swing my arm ending where your nose begins.  The “rules” of conduct imposed are there to assure that the common good is sacred.  Those who come to a national monument, a church, a library, etc. to experience the place with no distractions should, IMO, have the right to do that, and the restrictions on use are assuring that right.  I do think the police went a little overboard.  But personally speaking, I can see many more circumstances and situations where Civil Disobedience would certainly have more meaning and more impact.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    But what constitutes a “distraction”?  Personally, I’m appalled at the way most Americans dress.  They are, in my view, profoundly disrespectful.  And sure as hell a distraction.  Should they, therefore, be arrested?

    Of course not.

    People silently moving their bodies — some merely shifting their weight from foot to foot — aren’t disrupting anything.

    As for employing civil disobedience in general, the time, place, circumstances — that’s up to individual people.  We’re never all going to agree on where and when civil disobedience is “appropriate,” the best choice, etc.  I happen to think this instance is appropriate, is a good choice.  Others will disagree.  I will, however, close with a relevant quote by Chris Hedges:

    “No system of total control, including corporate control, exhibits its extreme forms at the beginning. These forms expand as they fail to encounter resistance.”

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    And loaded guns, for god’s sake, can be carried into National Parks!  But dancing and kissing are prohibited.  And this makes sense??

  • Sylviaguarino

    I would have to agree with you on some clothing being quite distracting.  But we are talking about distractions you can’t block out, such as you can with just not looking at a guy with his underwear showing or a woman with midriff or cleavage showing. Standing in a “reverant” space and having someone dancing by, singing by, etc. can’t help but distract me.  As for your further comment about loaded guns in National Parks, that IS a down right travesty, IMO.  On that I agree with you as well.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    But nobody was singing, nobody was playing music audible to anyone but themselves personally.  This was silent movement.

    Also, the whole “reverence” thing is a bit too close to official endorsement of religion for my taste.  The judge even used the words “temple” and “shrine” in his opinion.

    I agree the Jefferson Memorial is a beautiful space.  That’s why it’s perfectly appropriate that people who love it would choose to dance there.

  • Sylviaguarino

    Silent movement is still movement, still distracting.  Reverence for me is akin to spiritual reckoning.  I have no use for formalized, organized religion, but spiritual appreciation is at the core of my being. You and I are going to continue to disagree, and that is ok.  That’s part of living in a free society…..and, yes, overall, I do think American is a free society, esp. relatively speaking.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Well, then, if “movement is still distracting,” I think you’re going to have a problem with everyone at the Memorial who walks, limps, stretches, yawns, bends, stoops, squats, or just plain fidgets.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Seconding Chris’s comment about Nancy’s article and commend it to people, especially for this comment by the judge:

    “A prohibition on expressive activities in a nonpublic forum does not violate the First Amendment if it is viewpoint neutral and is ‘reasonable in light of the use to which the forum is dedicated,'” Bates wrote. “Here, the ban on demonstrations at the Jefferson Memorial satisfies these requirements.”

    How is the Jefferson Memorial a non-public forum??

  • john

    Its sad, your blog used to be one of the best travel ombudsman blogs, but it has turned into an annoying anti-government blog.  

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    John, I guess you don’t follow it, then.  Chris writes every day about travel.  He just posted another travel article today.

    As for “anti-government,” you’re missing the point.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    You’re right, I’m so annoying. Also, it’s obvious no one cares about this issue, based on the number of comments. 

    As a service to readers, maybe you can post the URLs to all of the other travel ombudsman blogs that we should be following. Thanks!

  • Erik

    Now that virtually every cellphone can record video, we’re a nation of citizen journalists, and the one way to keep abuses of power in check is to document it and report it.

    Which just about every witness was doing here.  And which during any encounter with an authority, you should too.

    It’s not like these abuses of police power are new.  It’s just that now more of them get documented now.

    TJ would appreciate that, although I don’t know if it would decrease his spin in the grave at what happened at his memorial.

  • Lamont Cranston

    An “open-letter’ to all the police-apologists,
    on this forum.  I don’t mean to put you guys down,
    but the cops in this video are just brown-shirt “thugs with guns”.
    These brown-shirt “thugs with guns”, might impress you,
    but they don’t impress us Freedom Loving Americans.

    Sure these cops are “lackeys” doing the bidding of the judge,
    but it’s also obvious they have a warped-mind, a mind of discord,
    a mind of anger, of hatred and power, and control,
    than can only be sublimated by beating and controlling “others”.

    That’s why cops go into this line of work.
    Scientific study has shown that about 25% percent (1 out of 4)
    of adult males in America, are “hard-wired”
    with the “Need to Control others”.
    These cops should instead, be correcting their own warped-minds.

    The cops in this video, are truly the destructive ones.
    I actually feel pity for them.

    Please also read my other World-famous, Award-winning posts,
    on this forum.

  • Sloppyjoe

    awesome job . Too bad they officers did not use more force. I am sure LAPD would have!!

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Hmmm.  Interesting that “Erik Lorna” has, since yesterday, somehow morphed into “Lamont Cranston” (from the classic radio series ‘The Shadow’) in the comments.  Didn’t realize that one could change one’s name after one has posted a comment.  That “Erik Lorna” who disappeared (touché! very Shadow-like) would seem to be a different person from the Erik posting below without a last name.  Chris?

  • Joelw

    It is not germane to this issue, Jeanne, but I believe that the flag is not supposed to fly 24 hours a day, except perhaps for some special buildings like the Capitol.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    With lighting, it can be flown at night.

    I volunteered with the Boy Scouts for 15 years.  I do know my flag etiquette.  But I *am* glad that you have enough respect for the flag to have made the comment.  Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Graham/500208125 Mary Graham

    If we don’t put a stop to our own advancing “police state”, I’m afraid we’re all in for an experience we never thought we’d have, and it won’t be a good one.

  • Dave

    I haven’t bothered watching the videos; I get the idea from reading all 72 (so far) comments.  With that admission, I must say I would agree that the dancers are well within their rights, and the regulation is out of line in the first place.  What too many people forget is that there is NO constitutional right to not be offended, which is the tenor of the justification for the regulation.

  • djp

    Patrick Swayze is turning in his grave….

  • sunshipballoons

    I’m not sure how persuasive the opinion is.  It holds that it was not a violation of Oberwetter’s constitutional rights to arrest her.  Does that necessarily mean that the rule is enforceable, does it?  It seems to me that it’s probably possible to arrest somebody for something you’re not allowed to arrest them for without it creating an actionable constitutional violation.  It’s not clear what would have happened if the Parks Service had actually gone ahead with prosecuting Oberwetter.  My guess is that they don’t go forward with this prosecution either.

  • sunshipballoons

    “From the looks of it to me, the policeman was speaking with the
    protester and my guess was warning him about what would happen next.”

    –I’ve never gotten this point.  If the cops tell you what they are going to do before they do it, can they do whatever they want to you?  “Stop struggling or I’ll chop your hand off” is okay?

  • Edmorrow

    People have the right to visit a national monument without having to witness a ‘dance party.’ Last time I checked you do not visit Washington D.C. monuments to witness dancing. These people were contesting a law recently handed down by the courts. It is not the police officer’s job interpret the law, it IS the police officer’s job to enforce them. A police officer does not have the luxury of picking and choosing which laws he/she finds constitutional. If you want to challenge a law, I would suggest contacting your congressional representative to ask for a change in the law, or its wording. Do not go out and deliberately break the law (whether you believe it is fair or not) just to see if you will be arrested.

  • MarkieA

    I, too, believe that the rampant videotaping of virtually everything can serve as a great deterrent to abuse. But, guess what? Fourteen – I believe it’s fourteen, not four – states have basically made it illegal to videotape a police office “doing his job”. They haven’t come out and stated it that way, they just say that you must receive permission from the officer before VOICE recording (image recording is OK). Two things: 1) you’re NEVER gonna get the officer’s permission, and 2) video without voice is just about useless in these situations. They hang their hat on a law that requires you to get permission from ANYONE before your record them, so they’re not singling out police officers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    Yeah, Rosa, just go sit in the back of the bus!  Edmorrow doesn’t like civil disobedience.  It’s inconvenient for him.  Back of the bus, Ms. Parks, and he means now.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Ooh, scary!  Witnessing a — gasp! — “dance party”!  Heaven forfend!  Where’s my fainting couch?!

  • Lamont Cranston

    Edmorrow, I hear what your saying!

    People have the right to visit a national monument without having to witness brown-shirt, police-thugs violently rough-up American citizens!

    “the clouded-mind sees nothing”

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    MarkieA, there’s a faint ray of light in all this — in Maryland, a motorcyclist who videotaped a cop took his case to court and won.  So at least in Maryland, one can still videotape police encounters.  I’m not saying it’ll always be easy, or that cops who are abusing their authority won’t try to prevent it, but at least the law is on our side on this one.  And the many good cops out there are happy with this law.  It protects them as much as it protects us.  Two links:


  • JJWeldon

    At least you acknowledge that few people care about it.  And it’s not that people don’t really care about it, they just don’t care enough about it to actually do anything because they’re busy with things that are more important to them.  Like the baseball game or Facebook. 

    But the outrageous rants of rape in the streets by Lisa et al are entertaining, if not repetitive.

  • Tommy_Jules

    it brings attention to the issue so that more people will protest with their votes and wallets. That’s about all it accomplished but that was their goal. Millions of people just found out about this law overnight.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IHFSGYZFBG34UZZ3C4SMIG3HDA DanA

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 
    “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. ”  — Thomas Jefferson

    The American Revolution Part II is coming…. 

  • y_p_w

    It depends on the situation.  They seem to have a requirement at the National Mall associated parks (including Jefferson Memorial) that media coverage of events doesn’t need a permit, but that arrangements require 7 days advance arrangement.  Apparently filming or photography of any kind isn’t even allowed in the interior chamber of the Jefferson Memorial.


    As far as many NPS units go, “coverage of breaking news” doesn’t typically require a permit, including at Carlsbad Caverns.  I suppose “breaking news” is subject to interpretation.


    “Coverage of breaking news does not require a permit, but is subject to restrictions and conditions necessary to protect the park resources, public health and safety, and to prevent impairment or derogation of park resources, values, or purposes.”

    The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge are visiting Yosemite this July.  I suspect that the news crews covering their visits are not going to require permits.

  • y_p_w

    United States Park Police are federal law enforcement officers.  Before becoming officers, they generally train at one of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, where graduates are required to take an oath to defend the Constitution upon graduation.

  • y_p_w

    I noted it elsewhere, but apparently filming/photography isn’t allowed within the interior chamber of the Jefferson Memorial.  I don’t know if it’s legally enforceable if there’s some incident that might have a legal reason to be documented.  It probably doesn’t apply to the photography that the NPS has done or where waivers were granted.


    “Jefferson Memorial: Filming/photography is prohibited within the columns and the interior chamber of the Jefferson Memorial.”

  • Elena21045

    Anyone who likens what is shown here to a ‘Police State’ OBVIOUSLY has never lived in a police state.

    Yes, “no dancing” is a silly law… and people should be respectful of other people viewing the monument and keep there self expressive dancing inside until they leave the monument.

    As for the “brutality”….from what I saw the officers were nicely explaining that they didn’t want to have to arrest anyone, but it was their job to enforce the law. The first couple where straining against the officers and arguing. The fellow with the ‘disobey’ shirt would have done Ghandi proud when he calmly surrender to arrest…it was his buddy NOT the officer who pulled him to the ground. At which point the officers did their job and restrained both struggling men…

    If these dancers wanted to make a difference they could have lobbied to have the law changed….but no, THAT would take time and hard work (and education), and probably wouldn’t get them on YouTube…..so they stage the adult version of a temper tantrum and ruin the day of many TJ Memorial visitors.

    In other countries the protest inequalities, and dictators and mass murder of civilians….here we protest not being allowed to do the ChickenDance in front of a founding father…..great job america

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Elena, must disagree.  The whole police state thing isn’t a binary yes/no question.  There are degrees.  There are points along a spectrum.  There are actions that are repressive, police state actions — yes, in this country.  That doesn’t mean that, therefore, all police states are the same.  Such an argument is nonsense, and presents a false dichotomy.

    A police state doesn’t have to spring fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus.  It can develop, slowly, incrementally, bit by tiny bit.  That’s why responsible citizens ring the alarm long before a situation deteriorates to the point where there’s no recourse, where we are in a complete police state.

    The Patriot Act and its provisions are characteristic of a police state.  Unwarranted wiretapping, surveillance, search & seizure, stop-and-frisks (Terry precedent), raids of peace activists’ homes, designation of innocent citizens as “domestic extremists,” indefinite detention — these are all happening in the U.S. and these are all the actions of a police state.

    Former — and current — residents of Poland, Russia, Hungary, you name it, have been chiming in here and at other websites drawing the parallels themselves.

    And there are many ways to protest, not just one. Legislative action is one way. Judicial action is one way. Civil disobedience, which these dancers committed, is one way. If you didn’t see Adam Kokesh being picked up and body-slammed to the floor, I don’t know which video you were watching.