Twitter informs me that a friend—whose name I’ll omit for the moment—just got arrested at a little dance party some libertarians were holding at the Jefferson Memorial (which, apparently, is open to the public 24/7). I’m not entirely clear on what the charge could have been—I wasn’t aware dancing at a public monument was prohibited by any statute—but given that my friend’s immediate social circle is largely composed of journalists, bloggers, and constitutional lawyers who sue the government for fun, I predict hilarity. The purpose of the dance party, ironically, was to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Updates shortly.
Update: Here’s a friend’s (slightly edited) account of what happened at the scene:
The gist is that we started dancing with only headphones (no boom box or other external noise) and they forcefully asked us to leave. [Our mutual friend] was further back behind the cops and she kept dancing. They took her into custody and would not tell us why. We filmed almost the whole thing including the cops putting her in the paddy wagon. One cop swore at us and when Pete Eyre quoted him a few times the same cop said he would arrest Pete if he swore again. They told us that [our friend] was making noise (whatever that means) but people next to her said that she didn’t make a sound. There was absolutely no reason to handcuff her and take her to the station. Most of the people who were there are now at the station waiting.
Another friend passed along a photo from the arrest; click the thumbnail above for the full-sized version. I feel vaguely like Theora Jones.
Update II: Megan McArdle snarks:
As a resident of DC, I’m certainly overjoyed to hear that violent crime has fallen to a level where we can spare valuable police resources to fight the silent scourge of . . . dancing. Now that we have no more murders or muggings, it seems to me that we should also be looking at newsboys who smoke, women who attend the theater, and of course, the iniquitous habit of playing cards on the sabbath.
Jason Talley, who was at the scene, now reports that our friend was arrested on a charge of “disorderly conduct”. Under District of Columbia law, “disorderly conduct” occurs when a person:
with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or under circumstances such that a breach of the peace may be occasioned thereby;..(2) congregates with others on a public street and refuses to move on when ordered by the police.
Now, I’m no attorney, obviously, but I see at least a couple points on which the instant situtation seems to fall short. Especially if most others were moving along, I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out how dancing at the Jefferson Memorial at midnight can possibly be construed as either intended to or, indeed, remotely likely to “provoke a breach of the peace.” Again, going by Jason’s estimate, there were about 20 libertarian dancers, the police, and perhaps six other unaffiliated monument-visitors. The Jefferson Memorial, for those of you who haven’t been, is enormous. Twenty people grooving along quietly with their iPods probably wouldn’t be in anyone’s way at noon, never mind midnight. Second, I don’t know how instantaneously one is supposed to comply with broad orders, but it seems like a stretch to say that our friend was “refus[ing] to move on”. Jason also says the officers would not give their badge numbers, which the District of Columbia requires them to do upon request. There should be video of all this shortly. And, naturally, there’s already a Facebook group: Free the Jefferson 1.
Update III: Radley Balko was there as well, and offers an account that jibes with what we’ve got here so far. Word is now that her release has been pushed back two hours because she had to be taken downtown, for some reason. So as I understand it, she’s going to spend five hours getting processed by police because she was celebrating Jefferson’s birthday at his open-to-the-public monument, and had the temerity to ask an officer why they had to leave. Message recieved: Never question a cop.
Incidentally, while my point here is mostly just to poke fun at these guys for being humorless jerks, I’m thinking this degree of touchyness about being questioned might yield less amusing results in situations that don’t involve educated white girls with lots of camera-toting friends on hand.
Update IV: She’s out and apparently fine. Video in a bit, supposedly.