Several activists organized and carried out a “silent dancing flash mob” this afternoon inside the Jefferson Memorial. The event was intended to protest restrictions on speech and expressive activities such as silent dancing placed near national monuments.
These restrictions were recently re-affirmed with Judge John Bates’ verdict in the US District Court case, Oberwetter v. Hilliard (Civil Action No. 09-0588). The case revolved around a similar protest, in which Mary Oberwetter was arrested dancing at the monument in celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in April of 2008.
In his opinion, Judge John Bates wrote:
““The purpose of the memorial is to publicize Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, so that critics and supporters alike may contemplate his place in history… The Park Service prohibits all demonstrations in the interior of the memorial, in order to maintain ‘an atmosphere of calm, tranquility, and reverence… Prohibiting demonstrations is a reasonable means of ensuring a tranquil and contemplative mood at the Jefferson Memorial,”
Noting the irony of this opinion, given Thomas Jefferson’s influential support for broad individual liberties and particularly the right to freedom of speech, the organizers of today’s protest wrote a brief response to Judge Bates:
“This is total bullshit and an infringement on our right to express ourselves under the 1st Amendment. Bring your IPods! Remember, we want to be respectful of others who want to silently contemplate this great Founder who arguably best embodied the values and ideas of this country! Free your mind and your ass will follow!”
At least one of the organizers, Edward Dickey, along with Russia Today TV personality, Adam Kokesh, were arrested during the event.
Watch the video of police arresting protestors (including Kokesh) and forcibly removing those filming the event here:
Update: From “Adam vs. the Man” Video, US Marine Corps veteran and TV host, Adam Kokesh, is lifted and thrown to the ground, then choked by DC Parks Police. [Two different camera angles, at approximately 3:00 and 8:15]: