Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Slow, Tiny Steps Toward Disappearing Civil Liberty

Not covered much locally (for obvious reasons) but a storm in the blogosphere.

Organized by Bureaucrash, the youth-oriented libertarian affiliate of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Thomas Jefferson Dance Party looked to revive the dancing-as-freedom meme with a dedication to many free marketeers' favorite founding father on the occasion of his 265th birthday.

The plan was simple enough: Freedom-loving individuals . . . would gather in the Jefferson Memorial just before midnight, April 13, and spend ten minutes bopping, swaying and moonwalking to honor the author of the Declaration of Independence.

So as not to disturb any fellow memorial visitors, the group . . . opted to wear headphones and listen to their own iPods. As it turned out, the half-dozen or so unrelated onlookers who happened to be on-hand (the park is open 24 hours) appeared mostly amused by the spectacle.

Security personnel assuredly were not amused. Within two minutes of the event's start, they began moving to disperse the crowd, ordering the dancers to leave immediately, forcibly laying their hands on some and hurling profanities at others.

A few party-goers attempted to explain the nature of the event, but memorial staff were in no mood to discuss political theory. At 11:59, just four minutes after the event's start, U.S. Park Police had detained and were handcuffing the aforementioned "Jefferson 1" -- 28-year-old occasional Spectator contributor Brooke Oberwetter -- ostensibly for unauthorized dancing.

The much-less-friendly take by that bastion of Civil Rights editorializing:

Talley said the group gathered at the memorial just before midnight. His video shows the inner chamber of the memorial with about 20 people dancing and talking with each other.
A security guard soon appears, insisting that the group leave.

Oberwetter was among those ushered out and was arrested after she kept returning to the chamber. Talley, meanwhile, can be heard arguing with another officer:

"So you're saying the state is going to reject us?" Talley says. "It's Thomas Jefferson's birthday. We're here to celebrate that. And the state is throwing us out. There is something wrong with America when we get thrown out of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial when we're silent and peaceful and celebratory!"

"Thomas Jefferson's looking down, and he'd be very dissatisfied," Talley says.

Quite the contrary, says Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation professor of history at U-Va.

"What they're referring to here is Jefferson's endorsement of popular resistance to tyrannical authority," he said yesterday. "What these folks were involved in was provoking authorities into having to enforce the law. Jefferson was very anal about obedience to the law.

"It trivializes Jefferson to suggest that in his name or spirit someone would ignore the will of the people as expressed in law," Onuf said. "I don't think he'd bother to turn over in his grave in this case."

Think that the difference in coverage has to do with the CEI connections of the dancers?

Nah. Couldn't be.

Aaaaaannyway...what's the big deal about a bunch of kids dancing around at midnight?

No comments: