'Not appropriate' Dance crackdown continues at Jefferson Memorial
You can dance if you want to, but you might want to leave your friends behind– unless you plan on spending a night in jail.
That's what happened in 2008 when a group of D.C. natives staged a silent flash mob at the Jefferson Memorial to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's birthday. What resulted were arrests based on National Park Service regulations.
Last month, the dancing ban was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in a decision that asserted that dancing can detract from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration that should be found at the monument.
The decision to uphold the ban prompted another group of activists to take to their feet, this time protesting what they saw as an infringement on their First Amendment rights. A YouTube video of the May 28th event shows police throwing one activist to the ground, images that raise questions of police discretion– if not outright brutality.
"Thomas Jefferson would be rolling over in his grave," says Charlottesville civil libertarian John Whitehead.
Whitehead, who heads the non-profit Rutherford Institute, worries about the precedent that the ruling sets, considering that it offers no specific guidelines for prospective merry-makers.
"The ruling gives too much leeway," says Whitehead. "What constitutes dancing and what constitutes bothering others? The only people being bothered are the police."
The activists planned a second dancing event and touted it as an opportunity for the public to stand up to what they see as injustice. On Saturday, June 4, around 200 people put on their dancing shoes to dance at the Memorial. This time there were no arrests, but National Park Police broke up the groove-fest after twenty minutes.
The Park Service doesn't seem willing to change its stance on the issue anytime soon. In a statement released before the most recent event, the Service– pointing out that ample space exists on the Memorial's grounds to dance without interrupting any other tourists– stated, "We believe it is not appropriate to be dancing in an area that memorializes some of the most famous Americans."Read more on: thomas jefferson