We Can’t Dance If We Want To

Here’s a message I sent to my congressman and senators:

Dear xxx,

I’m writing you this Memorial Day because of a disturbing video I watched yesterday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PDhjNF9eUQ) of park police aggressively stopping non-disruptive expression at the Jefferson Memorial.

I believe that they were there to peacefully protest the recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling in Oberwetter v. Hilliard (http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/748BE2DE8AF2A2A485257893004E07FC/$file/10-5078-1308285.pdf). In that case, a young woman was arrested for silently (with ear buds) dancing, with friends who were doing the same, at the Jefferson Memorial to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson around midnight in 2008.

I believe that the original arrest was the result of poor judgment of over-zealous police, and the court decision was an, unfortunately all too common, example of the state protecting its own misdeeds rather than correcting them. I think this will lead to an escalation of harms. It’s possible that the police actions and the court’s decision fall within the current letter of the law, but they fall outside of the spirit of individual liberty that makes this country uniquely great.

It’s my understanding that Congress has authority over the policies governing D.C. memorials, and so I urge you to take quick and decisive action to correct the policy and prevent future abuses of people at our memorials.

I agree that it’s reasonable to prevent large protests within the memorials and other activities that would interfere with the ability of visitors to enjoy them. But, I think it’s clear that such considerations do not apply to these cases and perhaps the policies need clarification to establish that.

We honor the memory of Thomas Jefferson for his commitment to individual liberty. In this country, we not only tolerate but we celebrate individual preferences in how happiness is pursued. We do not insist on uniformity. We do not believe that there is only one way to worship, or one way to honor our founders.

Many people are disturbed that our government has over-reacted to calls for security after the horrible attacks on 9-11, and are threatening the very values that make our country worth securing (excesses including TSA security theater, Patriot Act abuses, etc.). Please end this abuse of innocent citizens and visitors and avoid displaying the opposite of toleration at our shrines to liberty.

Please let me know what you are doing to solve this problem as soon as possible.


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