Jefferson Memorial Dance Arrests Poorly Handled

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Poorly handled by the demonstrators, that is.

The above video splices together several perspectives on yesterday’s arrests at the Jefferson Memorial of Adam Kokesh and others who were there to demonstrate against restrictions on personal expression at the memorial site.

The BoingBoing crowd is making a lot of the way Kokesh is brought to the ground, which is a highly unfortunate distraction from the more important issue of “free speech zones” in modern America. You can skip forward into the video to about the 2:20 mark and see the two more physical arrests. The first is of an unidentified individual; the arrest starts out with little physicality until another individual runs in and attempts to pull the first man away from the officer. Both are taken down to the ground and restrained.

The third arrest is of Kokesh and starts around 3:00. Viewing from there and listening to the audio it’s clear that the officer first attempts to tell Kokesh to submit to arrest without touching him, then endeavors to turn him around and detain him. Kokesh ignores the requests, continues to walk away, then refuses to kneel. It’s at that point that the officer lifts him and throws him to the ground to restrain and arrest him.

The selectively edited highlight reelJames O’Keefe would be proud – doesn’t show the first man interfering with the other man’s arrest nor do you see the officer attempt to arrest Kokesh without violence. It’s hard to tell to what extent anyone is resisting against the officers once they’re prone; while they don’t get any limbs free it’s clear they were physically resisting before that point. They could be straining against the hold the officers have on they – it’s impossible to tell from the video.

I’m personally a big supporter of civil disobedience against unjust laws and I was all the way behind Kokesh and the others… till the second the officers attempted to arrest them. The law against peaceful non-disruptive demonstration is baloney, but it’s the current law of the land. Getting charged with it and fighting it – although this is pretty pointless since there’s already a case in play that may be further appealed above the circuit court level – is great, but resisting that arrest is not.

Changing the law and changing public opinion via non-violent demonstration and challenging the constitutionality of an arrest is fine, but the additional escalation in this circumstance is entirely on Kokesh and the other demonstrators. They had the opportunity to get arrested for that they believe in and show the world the status quo – the arrest of the couple gently swaying, for example, is a perfect demonstration of how silly this restriction is. Forcing the encounter to be violent by resisting arrest cheapens the whole thing and distracts from what should have been the core issue.

Kokesh and the others could have chosen to go limp and non-violently resist the arrest. Instead they made this mess. Too bad.

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


124 thoughts on “Jefferson Memorial Dance Arrests Poorly Handled

  1. Another debacle brought to you by the notorious Park Police, you know, the guys that “investigated” the Vince Foster “suicide” and are famous for thier heavy handedness in relatively minor matter like traffice enforcement on the parkway…

  2. Stefan, I don’t think my arguments ARE twisted. I am suggesting that if folks disagree with the law regarding “non-public forum” space, they need to challenge the law, but do so in a way that keeps the focus on the law they are trying to change. I support civil disobedience. Though my own health prevented me from taking part, many of my friends have been arrested in Arizona in the recent past protesting immigration laws that I believe are unjust and need to be changed. However, when the police came to arrest them for doing things they knew were illegal, they fully cooperated with the police, thus keeping the focus on the law itself rather than shifting the debate to police behavior.

    I am suggesting that these particular demonstrations have been poorly executed, which has shifted the debate to police behavior rather than the law that folks are trying to change.

    In this case, I disagree that the law should be changed, not because I haven’t considered it or looked into it, not because I’m a “sheep”, but because I have looked into it. If I would not want Fred Phelps making use of a particular space for his vile demonstrations, then I have to support making it illegal for anyone else to demonstrate there, too. I am a radical first amendment rights proponent — if it is a public forum space, anyone has the right to demonstrate there, no matter how vile I find their position. This may be before your time, but I actively advocated the KKK’s right to march in Skokie, as long as anyone else was allowed to march there. For me, saying that SOME spaces are non-public forum spaces makes sense.

    However, I absolutely support the right of those who disagree with me to engage in acts of civil disobedience to highlight and challenge a law they believe is unjust/improper. I just wish their demonstrations were executed with more maturity.

    Are you in Washington now? It’s my understanding that there’s a demonstration there again today — and, again, on their facebook page they STATE that it is a demonstration and that the expect to be arrested. With that in mind, I hope they follow the model of past proponents of successful civil disobedience, and behave well, keeping the focus on their desire to change the law.

  3. Americans are given so much freedom they don’t know when true injustice is being done.

    If you want to protest something, protest where your tax dollars are going.

    And for Kevin, the cop wasn’t racist. If you’re going to another country, you should respect their social norms. You’re racist for thinking the person is wrong for their standards of proper public behavior and calling him names.

  4. So many of the comments in this discussion are ridiculous. Thankfully not all.

    For the record, I think Kokesh’s quest is based in his fundamental misunderstanding of what the First Amendment means. And with Russia Today (a Kremlin PR-tool, by the way) behind him, this whole thing has the taste of almost nothing more than an Andrew Breitbart-style news stunt. Amendment is all about. I wrote a longer essay about why I think the courts are right on my own blog, which is usually humor-based, but this moronic story and the seemingly ignorance-based fuss around it made me make an exception…

  5. Sorry, ImproperlyHandled, perhaps I didn’t explain my story well enough. Chinese couples are allowed to hold hands in Beijing. The cop was specifically unconfortable because we were a mixed couple. Same thing, I imagine, happened to the Deep South or Segregated North several decades below. I think this is the very definition of racism, it’s not just a soil norm.

    You have to live in China for a bit to realize how deeply racist that society is.

  6. IF people would bother to look into things a little better before yelling “police state” they would know that INSIDE the memorial is NOT a PUBLIC place and never has been. Just like the WH isn’t a PUBLIC place.

    Yeah there you go Adam… We the people paid for the white house, now go dance in it.

  7. We absolutely must support the U.S. Park Police in this fight. I encourage anyone who lives in the D.C. area to hang out at the Jefferson Memorial and immediately call the Park Police dispatch line, (202) 610-7500, at the first sign that someone may be moving rhythmically for purposes of prohibited expression, a potential federal crime.

    Did that guy really nod to his wife…or was he dangerously bobbing his head as a subtle dance move? Did that teenager wave to her mom, or was she briefly shaking her arms to a dangerous criminal beat? If you’re in doubt, call it in. Flood the Park Police with emergency dancing calls, so we can help in the important fight against this crime.

    Also, call the Park Police CID tipline, (202) 610-8737, to inform the detectives about possible instances of prior rhythmic movement that you may have seen inside the Jefferson Memorial. Report every incident — we can’t let this slide! Support the U.S. Park Police!

  8. You missed the point. A big part of the protest, as stated before it took place, is the unjust use of force by police officers.

    In addition, allowing yourself to get arrested seconds after getting started, and having the rest handled in court makes suppressing free speech a breeze and protests expensive, futile & masochistic.

  9. Now, today June 4, 2011, there was an orchestrated demonstration at the Jefferson Memorial, scheduled for Noon. When I got there at 12:30 PM, the Park Police had already closed the monument so they could deal with the “dancers” inside. While I was waiting to see what was going to happen, the Park Police moved me twice and then reopened the monument like nothing had happened. A Metro bus that had been brought in to presumably haul away the arrestees left empty. Still don’t know what really happened, but here is what I wrote while I was waiting for the action:

    Oh yes! He seems to be drawn to a controversy like a bug to a light in the night. Flying along, minding his own business till he veers towards the attraction, then circles – ever closer and close – until the cop’s warm bad breath hits him in the face – No Dancing in the memorial!

    If they will do all this just to keep a mime from trying to whisper in church, what would they do if America awakens from her coma-like slumber party and makes her demands known? Demands the release of Bradley Manning; Demands the restoration of public education; Demands fair and publicly financed elections; Demands the prosecution of those who wrongfully invade other countries as war criminals; Demands the treatment of drug addiction as a health problem and not a profit center for privately run prisons. Demands the return of the progressive income tax as it was originally intended; and, Demands the treatment of the earth as the fragile precious resource it is.

    A few years back I was forcibly stopped from talking to a player at a baseball game by several heavily armed uniformed officers – but that was at the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana Cuba. Later I realized they were probably afraid I was trying to get him to defect from Fidel. What are these US Park Police Officers afraid of? What if America wakes up and moves to the music? What if America presses her demands? What if …?

  10. “‘People have the inalienable human right to be free from violent interference if they are not acting violently themselves, regardless of what some piece of paper might say.’

    I don’t know that you’d find many people who agree with that. We consent to certain rules and regulations, and the ability for the government to enforce those rules and regulations.”

    then you must know a lot of really shitty people.

    i’m obviously in on this conversation late, but seriously, doug…

    i wonder if any of these people who are saying “the protestors in the wrong” and state that someone deserves to be arrested for DANCING (!!! WTF), have ANY IDEA how thomas jefferson himself would react to such madness? he would be refreshing the tree of liberty, kids.

  11. lily, no one was arrested for dancing. They were arrested for demonstrating. We know it was a demonstration because they SAID it was a demonstration. The folks organizing it said up front that it was a demonstration and they expected to get arrested. Isn’t that the point of civil disobedience: to get arrested in order to challenge a law you believe is unjust?

    These discussions keep going off into weird tangents because it wasn’t a well conducted act of civil disobedience. We end up talking about dancing (this wasn’t about dancing) or police brutality (that wasn’t the point). We lose the focus on what the demonstrators SAID this was about: should some areas that are owned by and open to the public be available for public demonstrations, or should there continue to be some that are “non-public forum” spaces? If there should be “non-public forum” spaces, what should the limits be? It could be an interesting discussion — far more interesting that the one that’s been hijacked by a poorly done act of civil disobedience.

  12. Marie from reading you it seems your main support for the memorial being a “non-public forum” is that groups like the WBC may choose to protest there instead of at peoples funerals?

    Considering the most impact WBC and their antics can have is making you have a bit of a cry, this feels to be a pathetically weak reason for making areas “non-public forums”.

    Talk about giving up freedom for illusory security.

  13. That Guy, it isn’t quite that simple: I often have to hold my nose and support the first amendment rights of folks with whom I disagree, even those I find abhorrent. I’d find it remarkably distasteful to have to support some of those folks’ first amendment rights inside our memorials. Their hate speech does much more than make people cry.

    So, tell me, given that there are plenty of places where people ARE allowed to demonstrate, why is it so important that places like under the dome in the Jefferson Memorial be included as public-forum spaces? It isn’t as though anyone is being silenced in this country right now — at least, as far as I can tell.

    Do you draw no boundaries around where people can demonstrate legally?

    And if it really IS that important, why not hold a more meaningful demonstration? If the intent is to do something silly and get arrested for it, why not show more discipline in the getting arrested part?

  14. Does Spence vs. Washington apply to case? If they are violating the law for the intended purpose of expressing their opinion? (even if Kotesh says they are not protesting)

  15. I’m not sure how Spence vs. Washington could apply, since this WAS on public property. And I haven’t seen anywhere where Kotesh says they were not protesting: he clearly labeled it as a demonstration protesting the prohibition against demonstrations in certain “non-public forum” spaces.

  16. //Do you draw no boundaries around where people can demonstrate legally? //

    Normally the line is drawn [for me] at restricting entrance to private property [to the point of blocking doors with cars less so the human chain sit in] but this is only my opinion, as really protesting is after all, well, protesting, Its always seemed that the exceptionally well planned in advance, down 3 km from where it matters isn’t as much a protest as an organised “pressure release” that has been planned for the most appropriate space to have the least impact.

    //Their hate speech does much more than make people cry.//

    Strongly disagree and like you say you have had to support the KKK in the past I could equally say that i’ve had to support WBC’s right to protest, I may not like it, nor like their message, but as soon as you block one objectionable group, your group becomes next on the chopping block, its a pity that to protect that we need to let asshats like the WBC have their turn, but frankly their MO of turning up trolling people till they react and then taking everyone involved to court seems to hint that they aren’t all that serious about their message.

    They rock up, scream and holler about ya’ll going to goto hell, its not a nice thing to have your funeral protested, and that in itself would agitate people, but the message?

    “My imaginary friend has judged you for stuff and so your going to hell and stuff…”

    Only way to deal with trolls is ignore them, only way to sooth the pain you feel inside is to laugh at them and have faith in your choices in your life.

    Frankly i’d be more concerned about the white power group with the history of violence against anyone who disagrees with them, compared to the PRO TROLLS at the WBC who smile at you so sweetly while delivering their venomous cynical message of hate. Im not saying that people wont be insulted and deeply hurt by things whackjobs on street corners say, but until they start brandishing the weapons their words are only words, and that should not be forgotten.

    //It isn’t as though anyone is being silenced in this country right now//

    Unfortunately with free speech isn’t it something that you must be eternally vigilant and protective of? Considering how easy it is too manipulate the public to get that thin end of the wedge in.

    //Why not hold a more meaningful demonstration?//

    Why should they have?

    As a protest, dancing seems fairly effective, and compared to the scenes from marches and rallies with placards screaming GODWIN WINS TODAY, you have a small group of people having a quiet dance and getting jumped, especially with the video being able to be watched so easily, its hilarious, and except for it being a bit silent i’m not sure how its less serious or effective form of protest than say singing for 4 years?

    //If the intent is to do something silly and get arrested for it//

    Seems to be a long assumption unless they have openly said that was their purpose [only] and that you would trust what a group of commie pinkos say to be the truth?

    //why not show more discipline in the getting arrested part//

    Seems they got more press from a vet being body slammed for bad dancing than a perfectly executed, give up, lie on the floor, nothing to see here folks.

    //I’d find it remarkably distasteful to have to support some of those folks’ first amendment rights inside our memorials.//

    It could be suggested that they are “their” memorials also and that they feel “their” founding fathers kinda liked the whole protestie revoltie thing and that its hellishly ironic for a memorial to Jefferson, to be declared a “non-public forum” to block protesting, or even group dancing in celebration.

  17. That guy, If I’m understanding the court ruling and the regulations properly, they are saying, in effect, that the interiors of the monuments are NOT public property, rather they are private property open to the public for limited use, which is the same as other property owned by the government but not open for unrestricted use — courthouses, the White House, etc.

    But I think for me this comes down to two questions:

    1 — why is it important for you to have the interiors of the monuments available for public demonstrations?

    2 — if it is, why not plan something less, well, juvenile? I don’t think what was done has any chance of creating change. There’s been very little attention, there’s already a court case that I’m sure is going to be sent to the Supreme Court, and, frankly, I thought the demonstrators looked more like a bunch of adolescents trying to get attention than like serious demonstrators. Most of what I’ve seen has been critical of the demonstrators with VERY little accurate information about why they were there. If you/they want to get this law changed, I’m reasonably certain you could come up with better and more effective protests and demonstrations than this one!

  18. //1 — why is it important for you to have the interiors of the monuments available for public demonstrations? //

    Why is it important that these areas be roped off, and if these areas are to be roped off, what other areas will/should be roped off, and at which point does it seriously stop.

    //2 — if it is, why not plan something less, well, juvenile? I don’t think what was done has any chance of creating change.//

    I found the method of protest [a dance] more interesting than the protest or people actually involved. Equally how is this so much more amusing than singing for 4 years to achieve change other than the obvious in that the singing has paid off.

    //I thought the demonstrators looked more like a bunch of adolescents trying to get attention than like serious demonstrators//

    You do appreciate to the vast majority of people, all you smelly ferals look like kids who don’t get reality, what would have looked better [obviously if they had had another 100-1000 people would have been much more impact] but should they have turned up with a ton of loud hailers spraying the place with blood professing solidarity and chanting union battle songs? The majority of protests are not the million man march, if anything that scale of protest is the one that is abnormal. Maybe its a generational thing, but frankly getting locked up for dancing sends a far more interesting message than standard protesting which generally achieves far less, or are you someone who actually still thinks that protests change something?

    //If you/they want to get this law changed, I’m reasonably certain you could come up with better and more effective protests and demonstrations than this one!//

    To clarify this is not my group, and I don’t actually care much about their cause or actions, though for a bystander you seem pretty revved up on this issue I must say, frankly though there is no better form of protest [dance] in relation to this issue, it plays it on so many angels that its hard not to love frankly, its just a pity that the main guy can’t dance. Explain why it would be more effective to have the same number of people turn up and do the same old same old feral crap of standing outside handing out flyers? Or should they have gone off somewhere so they wouldn’t draw so much attention and quietly dance away?

    For these people it seems the biggest issue is that the Adam guy cant dance and that they weren’t smarter in provoking the police to excessive force, and equally don’t have the numbers to cause a real stir.

    Maybe if there are people out there who have nothing better to do with their time than protest and cause a fuss about nothing [like those from ACLU who supported the KKK] would be able to teach these people how its done, maybe they wont though because they have ivory towers to attend to will just have to see, they didn’t do anything

    //Most of what I’ve seen has been critical of the demonstrators with VERY little accurate information about why they were there.//

    Gotta disagree with you on this one sorry, though seeing how much commentary is out there its fairly easy to find either negative or positive responses to this, and being totally outside to this whole issue was able to get a fair understanding of the motivations etc within the first 3 articles I read, and I’m certainly no pro.

    //If I’m understanding the court ruling//

    Id say you are, sounds very similar to my understanding of it. I’m just saying it really is the thin end of the wedge, that easy little surrender that makes so much sense, almost.

    Still damn ironic that the cops would arrest someone for “illegal demonstration” in Jefferson’s memorial.

  19. Get a grip people, they are at a MEMORIAL and should handle themselves in a respectful manner. The police should be commended for their actions!!!!

  20. @ E ONeill

    So body slamming and choking somebody for being disrespectful means “the police should be commended for their actions!!!!”

    You should “get a grip” on reality. This all started when a woman was arrested for dancing at the Jefferson memorial at midnight. Adam et all only danced SILENTLY and CALMLY in protest of her arrest and for this he was body slammed and choked.

    They subsequently returned and danced for an hour without arrest. End of story.

    You and I can move rhythmically anywhere we want, and certainly nobody should body slam, choke and arrest us for it. Why is this even being discussed? And why would you use five exclamation marks to “commend” the actions of the cops?

    Again, “get a grip” on reality.

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