Arts Desk

Dance, Revolution, Etc. Part II

Tomorrow should be interesting.

The same folks who brought you last week’s “Yes, Park Police Can Do Choke Holds and Body Slams” will be restaging their protest event at the Jefferson Memorial on a much larger scale. More than 3,000 people have RSVP’d to the “Dance Party @ TJ’s!!!” event page on Facebook, which announces another dancing demonstration scheduled to occur tomorrow at noon at the memorial.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service issued a statement this morning reiterating its position that the memorial is not a place for dancing. Poor guys: They’re stuck between a U.S. appeals court ruling that they’re bound to uphold, and a clutch of protesters ready to broadcast online any new missteps. I’m curious how they’re planning to manage this event without doing themselves even more PR damage.

As immature as last week’s protestors seemed, they fully achieved their goal: major coverage of the issue. A few folks (including the WaPo’s editorial board, natch) have taken the law-and-order position, saying that the issue of “to dance or not to dance” is too trivial to bother with, and why shouldn’t the memorials be cordoned off as solemn places of reflection?

But thankfully, most journalists seem to be coming down on the other side, pointing out that although this might be a fringe issue, it lies at the edge of something much weightier: the question of when it’s OK for our government to limit citizens’ freedom of expression.

My favorite view so far comes from the WaPo’s Petula Dvorak, who compares the arrests for dancing to something equally frivolous: handcuffing folks for flying kites. Nice analogy—and the best part is that she didn’t make it up. It happened here in 1970.

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  • ?

    I'm sorry but I don't get the whole "immaturity" line about the protests. Exactly why does political expression have to be about a mature, considered, party-line wholesale endorsement of...what? voting?

    People call protests immature when they are desperate to avoid dealing with them. You guys shouldn't buy into that.

  • Southeast Ken

    29 year old Adam Kokesh is one of the white males arrested for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. On his website, Adam Kokesh describes himself as a libertarian Republican. He also has a television program on Russian television. Only white people with too much time on their hands would get involve in this type of foolishness.

  • Steve

    Hope they all get arrested.

  • Don

    The WaPo editorial doesn't bother to get into the underlying legal issues but they are in fact right. (Broken clock, twice a day, etc.)

    The reality is that there's a lot of restrictions on our first amendment rights already and, as the WaPo editorial obliquely and incompletely states, they typically hinge on being content-neutral and having a compelling interest.

    Personally I think the Park Police were ham-handed in 2008 and they're drawing this line with excessive precision. But from a freedom perspective the Kokesh protests are wrong and they even know it - their invitation tells people they can come dance on the steps, 50 feet away, and be safe from arrest.

    Over at We Love DC we had a guest analyst do a piece explaining why the regulation is perfectly constitutional. It's at if anyone cares to understand the actual legal underpinnings rather than just be cranked up about not being able to boogie everywhere they want to.

  • Andy

    Kokesh has proven himself on many occasions to be a publicity seeking moron.
    Memorials are memorials there's no reason why there can't be some reasonable restrictions on demonstrations inside the actual memorial. Especially since you can dance your heart out 100 ft away.

  • dancewatcher

    In 1979, Washington Performing Arts Society curated a dance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, choreographed by Liz Lerman, that included hundreds of dancers of all ages and styles, performing in unison to Copland's "Fanfare for a Common Man." All fully permitted, of course. Interesting how different times reap different results.