So, several of my friends in DC decided awhile ago that they would celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to sweet, sweet liberty by organizing a flashmob dance party (I would say flashdance, but that has other connotations) for the 265th anniversary of his birth and hold it at the Jefferson Memorial natch. Dubbed the Thomas Jefferson Dance Party and organized via facebook, it attracted about 20 participants who converged on the Memorial, put in their earbuds and promptly at 11pm Saturday night began grooving for freedom in front of TJ’s massive bronze statue much to the delight of about six other visitors who were unaware of why folks with ipods were dancing at the TJ Memorial. The plan was to dance for about 10 minutes and then disperse. No music was heard by anyone other than the participant and the Memorial rotunda is a massive structure with room for 10 times as many people. Also, keep in mind that the monuments and memorials in DC are generally open to the public 24/7 and this was certainly the case with the TJ Memorial Saturday night.
About six minutes into the celebration, the humorless DC Park Police ordered everyone to stop dancing and move off the property. One of my friends had the temerity to ask why they weren’t allowed to dance there when they weren’t disturbing anyone. At which point, she was arrested and spent the next several hours in jail on charges of “interfering with an agency function,” whatever that is supposed to mean. A blog devoted to this incident appropriately called Free the Jefferson 1! has a roundup of eyewitness accounts and commentary from beltway and other libertarians who are rightly outraged at such ridiculous behavior by power-trippin’ park police.
This incident contrasts nicely with a story my Aunt Jeanne told me once about her son’s visit to the Lincoln Memorial 25 or so years ago and shows how we’ve been transformed from a nation of independent thinkers and achievers to a nation where folks largely do what they’re told and don’t want to do anything out of the ordinary for fear of drawing unwanted attention. Jeanne’s son, my cousin Robert, was really into two things as a teenager in the 70s–skateboarding and Abraham Lincoln. He was as passionate about one as the other, so when he and his mother had the opportunity to visit DC, he brought his skateboard and decided to spend some time alone with his hero by skating around the Lincoln Memorial. My Aunt, knowing her son’s passion for both, thought this would be respectful and appropriate, so they went to the Memorial and Robert began skating. Note: he was respectfully skating. He wasn’t grinding the curbs or anything–just taking some time to quietly reflect as he skated around inside the Memorial. A DC Park Policeman approached his mother and said that skateboarding wasn’t allowed there and that Robert would have to stop. My Aunt then proceeded to explain what a big fan of Lincoln my cousin was, how he meant the skating only out of respect and how much it would mean to him to spend a few more minutes skating around the Memorial. The cop, realizing that Robert meant no harm and was respecting the property, allowed him to skate around for about ten more minutes and then Aunt Jeanne and Robert left peacefully and thanked the officer on the way out. No rough words, no arrests, no need for any of those things in a civilized exchange between free people in our nation’s capital. What a sad state of affairs we’ve come to…
Update: There’s now a legal defense fund for Brooke (aka The Jefferson 1). Donate here.
*If you didn’t get the reference, you should be ashamed of yourself:)
Thanks to Xaq for the above image.