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Hijinks Ensue

April 12th, 2008 · 33 Comments

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.

Tags: Washington, DC


       

 

33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 x // Apr 13, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Dancing at the Jefferson Memorial to celebrate his birthday? Stuff white people like.

  • 2 DSG // Apr 13, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Deliberately provoking the cops to respond (predictably) by getting upset and making (false) arrests? Also stuff white people like.

  • 3 Wydok // Apr 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Megan McArdle has some weird thinking going on. Park Police don’t investigate murders in DC. They are supposed to keep the memorials parks safe. that’s it. Unless there are murders happened at the WWashington monument, I don’t see how her argument has any merit.

  • 4 littlehorn // Apr 13, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    “Deliberately provoking the cops to respond (predictably)”

    Ah yes the usual authoritarian slave who will always say “they asked for it”.

    Look son, if you’re into masochism and self-slavery, you get to North Korea and lick Kim Jong-Il’s boots, while we grown-ups live freely in the US and, indeed, while we refuse arrest because we’re dancing in front of a memorial.

    That’s the difference between a slave and a free man. A slave will always blame himself for everything. A free man will blame the authority for limiting his freedom.

    I think you can get a flight by tomorrow night. Hurry.

  • 5 snoofy // Apr 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Clearly, the next step is turning the TJDP into an annual event.

    Park Police are there to enforce a sort of Norman Rockwell vision of what our nation’s capital is like. So it’s no surprise they frown on dancing. They’re sort of our equivalent of the religious police found in reactionary Islamic states. Fortunately, they only have jurisdiction over the parks. Unfortunately, a lot of the nice places to spend time in the district are under the jurisdiction of Park Police.

    Park Police are, in my opinion, the biggest assholes among DC’s twenty or so different types of cops. My two encounters with them have not been pleasant.

    First encounter: At a concert at a park (some WPFW summer concert up by Walter Reed) I walked across the parking lot and in front of a Park Police car. He got out of the car with the sole purpose of intimidating and harassing me for forcing upon him the indignity of having to press the brake pedal. How dare a mere pedestrian think he has right of way over a Park Police in his cruiser!

    The second incident was in the aftermath of a high-speed chase that started in PG* and ended at Logan Circle when the young black male driver drove into a tree and killed himself. I entered Logan Circle to see what was going on and took one picture of the wrecked vehicle. Park Police advanced on me with obvious malicious intent and told me to leave the park and threatened to confiscate my camera. So I left. It was also interesting from an organizational perspective to watch the Park Police establish jurisdiction over the accident site and all the PG cops who caused the accident just hanging out by their cars outside the circle.

    *I know the chase started in PG because about 20 seconds after hearing the “thud” of a car hitting a tree, nearly killing a homeless man sleeping on a nearby park bench, about 50 PG cops rolled up on Logan Circle.

  • 6 Julian Elson // Apr 13, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your reactionary status quo!

    That’s the difference between a slave and a free man. A slave will always blame himself for everything. A free man will blame the authority for limiting his freedom.

    I think DSG’s comment is silly, but doesn’t this seem a little bit backwards? Freedom means blaming others, slavery means holding oneself responsible? In this particular case, perhaps it seems appropriate, but as a generalization, it seems way off.

  • 7 DCBob // Apr 13, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    When I was growing up here in the 60s and 70s, you could play frisbee on the Capitol grounds at midnight and nobody would bother you. It really did feel like the land of the free and the home of the brave. The entire city has gradually morphed into a security zone with cops swarming over every square inch – that is, every square inch that a white Congressperson might wander into. And most of that morphing, in my experience, occurred while conservatives were in power. Nothing quite underlines the way we’ve become a national security state and a police state.

  • 8 RandomViewer // Apr 13, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    With all the linking and redundant posting going on in your social groups blogsphere, you’d think the video would be up by now….

  • 9 Joe S. // Apr 13, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    If you don’t like dancing to music at midnight, you can get much the same police response by being black and not dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Just sayin’ . . . .

  • 10 Duck // Apr 14, 2008 at 8:01 am

    “Deliberately provoking the cops to respond”… I guess none of us should ever go to a club again because the dancing will deliberately provoke the cops to respond. Was the gathering lame? Yeah. Would I have made fun of them if I was there? Probably. But to arrest one of these people that were in a non-violent, silent demonstration is just ridiculous and I’m sure you realize that.

  • 11 Mike Licht // Apr 14, 2008 at 10:31 am

    In the words of Jefferson:

    “Dancing is a healthy and elegant exercise, a specific against social awkwardness . . . .”

    He recommended dance intruction and practice to his daughters and as part of the University of Virginia curriculum.

    Jefferson himself had taken dancing lessons at about age 14.

  • 12 Bob // Apr 14, 2008 at 11:04 am

    With freedoms, rights and civil liberties comes social responsibility. And descending on a national monument at midnight in an organized group of 20 to 30 people unannounced to turn it into your own personal party is not acting responsibly. I’m sorry you and others do not get that. Just because you have freedoms (rights) granted under a society does not mean the world is your personal playground.

    I really don’t expect to see this comment on your blog.

  • 13 Christopher Colaninno // Apr 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Megan McArdle has some weird thinking going on.

    I had the same thought on that. The park police are indeed doing nothing better when they do stuff like this.

  • 14 C. L. // Apr 14, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Are park police also required to give their badge numbers upon request, or is that only MPD?

    On the few occasions that I have had occasion to ask MPD officers for their badge numbers, they have given them.

  • 15 Kevin Bjorke // Apr 14, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    Staging an event to be filmed? Sounds like they should have had a Perk Service commercial use permit.

  • 16 Billy Beck // Apr 16, 2008 at 6:52 am

    “Megan McArdle has some weird thinking going on. Park Police don’t investigate murders in DC.”

    Tell it to Vince Foster.

  • 17 Andrew Reinicke // Apr 16, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I do believe that you need to get a permit with the National Parks service if you want to have a gathering. Having lied to the police that it was not a group gathering and then berating officials enforcing the law might get one thrown in the slammer. I am sure that is not what happened here.

  • 18 Good Lord // Apr 17, 2008 at 2:14 am

    That clown wasn’t arrested for “dancing.” She was arrested for failing to comply with a lawful order to disperse. It’s pretty simple: the police tell you to leave, you leave. You don’t stand around attempting to engage in armchair legal discussions in the middle of a police incident, because you _will_ come out on the losing end. Every single time. So don’t bother, you only make yourselves look like assholes. The police are well within their rights to ask you to move along. Case closed.

    And, do consider yourselves lucky the Park Police were that patient with you. Try that stunt in New York and you’ll have an entire mobilization on your hands, and far more than just 1 of you will end up in bracelets. (Your “camera-toting friends” have nothing to do with the decision to make you a guest of the city for the night, so lose the false sense of security before it lands you in more trouble of your own fabrication.)

  • 19 Good Lord // Apr 17, 2008 at 2:17 am

    >“Deliberately provoking the cops to respond”… I guess none of us should ever go to a club again because the dancing will deliberately provoke the cops to respond.

    Ridiculous comparison. What does a club have to do with the Jefferson Memorial? How is that in any way related to this discussion?

    >But to arrest one of these people that were in a non-violent, silent demonstration is just ridiculous and I’m sure you realize that.

    The only thing “ridiculous” about it was the behavior exhibited by this group.

  • 20 Scott // Apr 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    **”The police are well within their rights to ask you to move along.”

    Interesting point.

    Totally wrong, however. The Police, being an extension of the Government, have no “rights.” They have duties, and they have responsibilities.

    **”And, do consider yourselves lucky the Park Police were that patient with you. Try that stunt in New York and you’ll have an entire mobilization on your hands, and far more than just 1 of you will end up in bracelets.”

    So, because NYC is a more oppressive Police State than D.C., the denizens of D.C. should be “grateful” that they weren’t, say, tarred and feathered for their “crimes?”

    I’m constantly amazed by the tenacity of America’s more sycophantic citizens.

    Challenging the law, particularly challenging misuse of the law, is a responsibility of all American citizens.

    **”The only thing “ridiculous” about it was the behavior exhibited by this group.”**

    Of course, “ridiculous” behavior is not an offense which merits incarceration.

    **”You don’t stand around attempting to engage in armchair legal discussions in the middle of a police incident, because you _will_ come out on the losing end.”

    Of course, that depends on what you consider to be the “losing end.” Many young libertarians would gladly spend a night in jail to further their cause.

    But then again, most young libertarians aren’t going to spend their days groveling at the feet of The Man, and they certainly aren’t scared to step on a few toes to get their message across.

    If only the rest of America had the cajones to stand up for their rights.

    By the way …

    “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.”

  • 21 erich // Apr 18, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    I’m a 65 year old white man. I’ve seen a lot of changes in our country since I’ve been here…born in Akron. Now a Texan.

    These “happenings” are occuring nationwide, and worldwide. They harm no one.

    Often with only an hour or two notice, groups of folks, of various ages, gather to participate in harmless, goofy activity. The worst that I have seen caused have been grins from onlookers and grins and giggles from those participating. Quite often not only the participants are videoing the activities, but the onlookers gather what video they can to show friends, family and perhaps the local news station.

    These happenings create a sense of participation, camaraderie and good will. The participants unfailingly leave quickly, in single or couples or small groups, discussing what just happened and looking forward to the next occurance.

    While they may not be the stuff of dreams for all, they sure beat the tar out of drug wars, drive by shootings and the daily meals of desperation force fed us by the media.

  • 22 Andrew Reinicke // Apr 25, 2008 at 9:13 am

    SCOTT,
    You need a permit silly! It is a a police responsibility and duty to uphold the law requiring peaceable assemblage to have a permit. I am sure you have the intellectual honesty to at least address this point.
    A

  • 23 Tony // Jul 2, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    “You need a permit silly! It is a a police responsibility and duty to uphold the law requiring peaceable assemblage to have a permit. I am sure you have the intellectual honesty to at least address this point.” Isn’t that the point?! Why is a permit needed for 15-20 to dance quietly @ midnight in a public place? Soon I will need a permit to laugh, jump, skip, wave my arms if I’m w/a group? Government laws are not god given nor natural laws; they are popular opinion and should be questioned constantly.

  • 24 Rev. Helion Cruz // Oct 11, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    I can’t believe what I read! First, that cops would act in such asinine way. Cops? Come on.

    I used to be a lawyer and learned to expect that kind of attitude from them. But even though I could expect that kind of stupidity from a group I could never get used to the way some people will take anything from anyone in uniform. And then, they dare ask how the Germans “allowed” Hitler to do all the things he did. We’ve had Bush and Co. as our Nazi party for eight years and have permitted them to rob us of our rights. The rights of cops… I can’t believe it!

  • 25 Dogsbody // May 24, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    How do you like these hijinks?

    http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/748BE2DE8AF2A2A485257893004E07FC/$file/10-5078-1308285.pdf

  • 26 Lex // May 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Well, you got the hilarity part right. But you keep using that word, and I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • 27 Lizeth Schacht // Sep 20, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates. Thanks!

  • 28 ゴヤール // Jan 20, 2012 at 2:27 am

    ourge 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 atten

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