Free Speech

Update on the Jefferson Memorial Arrest

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There's been lots of action over the last few days on the arrest of a D.C.-area libertarian for dancing at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

There's now a website run by advocates for Brooke Oberwetter, the arrestee (and an occasional reason contributor). The story has made headlines all over the world. There's also amateur video of the event taken by fellow flash-mobbers, as well as information on a legal defense fund, and links to and critiques of other press coverage.

As I understand it, Oberwetter has been advised by her criminal attorney not to speak to the press right now. I believe they're also still waiting for the National Park Service to release its own surveillance video of the arrest.

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  1. This has the symbolism to be a big moment for libertarians. A great chance to write your Congressperson and ask how the hell we lost the liberty to dance in front of the Jefferson Memorial, of all places.

  2. The story has made headlines all over the world.

    Clearly, journalists suck everywhere. I mean, c’mon! This is mildly interesting to people in the US who like to lament their eroded rights at the hands of an oligarchic techno-cryptarchist regime…but how in the hell is this even on radar screens outside the US?

  3. Now’s the time in America when we dance!

  4. I believe they’re also still waiting for the National Park Service to release its own surveillance video of the arrest.

    I’ve got $5 that says there was a “malfunction” or “accidental erasure” of this video.

  5. Why do the dancers hate America?

  6. Spring is here and the time is right
    For dancin’ in the streets

  7. Elemenope, when we start traipsing about the world killing people so that they can be free, I can see why it would be interesting to people in other countries to see exactly what it is we mean when we say “freedom.”

    Does this deserve the same outrage as other injustices that happen every day in this country or around the world? Of course not–it barely even warrants the modest outrage it’s stirred up.

    But it’s because people have stopped being outraged altogether for the little injustices–and most people just roll over for them–that the bigger injustices are made possible.

  8. Things are not like they were prior to 9-11. Everything changed after 9-11. The police have a right and in fact an obligation to protect our freedoms by arresting this dancing fool. He could have been a terrorist.

  9. Does this deserve the same outrage as other injustices that happen every day in this country or around the world? Of course not–it barely even warrants the modest outrage it’s stirred up.

    As I’ve said to friends since this story came out, everyone is looking at this wrong, as if outrage is a finite commodity.

    I have enough outrage to go around. I’m like the fucking Horn of Plenty for outrage.

  10. Taktix,

    It’s our most important renewable source of energy. Way better than solar or wind power.

  11. In Soviet Russia, dancers arrest you!

  12. Yes, let’s not limit our outrage to the big things. It’s like First Amendment litigation–you’ve got to fight for the losers on the fringes so you don’t have to fight for something more important to you, personally.

  13. “I’m like the fucking Horn of Plenty for outrage.”

    This is such a hilariously perfect description. I hope you don’t mind if I start using it (with attribution to “some guy on a blog”).

  14. Juanita shows up and its not a “drug thread?” Wow! Is she expanding her horizon on troll-ness? (P.S. it was a she, jackass. RTFA)

    I’m with Taktix on this one, there’s certianly enough rage and outrage in me to go around. (Dude, I love the Horn of Plenty reference, well done)

    Anyway, there is a special amount always in reserve for anything remotely to do with abuse of power (this case) or injustice (e.g. “Dr.” Hayne).

    If I may resort to my younger self for a moment: Fuck those Facist Pigs.

  15. The politics of dancing produce strange bedfellows.

  16. Kool,

    She is just reminding us that she is a “journalist,” a requirement for every thread where she appears.

  17. Um, Juanita was being sarcastic and/or ironic… right?

    I really need to do a better job of keeping up with the complete cast of characters and the parts they play here.

  18. David(nto),
    Juanita is always sarcastic. Well, actually she is the perfect “right wing” strawman. Waste not your time on her as her tune never changes and the shrillness never abates.

  19. Um, Juanita was being sarcastic and/or ironic… right?

    She might claim that after-the-fact.

  20. It’s, you know. It’s a incident that shouldn’t have happened. But it’s hard for me to get too worked up about. I know we should standup for the “fringes” and “minor” erosions of liberty and everything. But I am more moved by the Corey Mayes and Ryan Fredricks than “cool” beltway libertarians who hangout with the “right” crowd of libertarian/conservative hipsters. But as we have seen with the media repeatedly, the cute blonde chick gets the press.

  21. JCJ,

    Are you blind? She is the Rosa Parks of her generation and of the Libertarian movement.

  22. News item:

    The National Park Service will be replacing the quote around the Memorial Dome, which currently reads

    I HAVE SWORN UPON THE ALTAR OF ALMIGHTY GOD ETERNAL HOSTILITY AGAINST EVERY FORM OF TYRANNY OVER THE MIND OF MAN.

    with a new version, which reads:

    FREEDOM IS ABOUT AUTHORITY, ABOUT THE WILLINGNESS OF EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING TO CEDE TO LAWFUL AUTHORITY A GREAT DEAL OF DISCRETION ABOUT WHAT YOU DO AND HOW YOU DO IT.

    The Park Service adds that this will make it necessary to recarve the statue of Jefferson into the visage of Rudy Guiliani, who they regret is also white and male, but at least is not dead.

  23. The Park Service adds that this will make it necessary to recarve the statue of Jefferson into the visage of Rudy Guiliani, who they regret is also white and male not dead, but at least is not dead white and male.

    Fixed.

  24. Clearly, you are confusing your regrets with that of our glorious government bureaucracy. Naughty, naughty. Expect a courtesy visit from Lawful Authority.

  25. In Soviet Russia, dancers arrest you!

    Don’t taze me, Borishnikov!

  26. Guy – if you’re referring to Depeche Mode, you’re probably right.

    “fucking Horn of Plenty of outrage” is an amazing line. Truly outstanding.

  27. There’s a “Free the Jefferson 1!” Facebook group, if anybody’s interested.

  28. Yes, let’s not limit our outrage to the big things. It’s like First Amendment litigation–you’ve got to fight for the losers on the fringes so you don’t have to fight for something more important to you, personally.

    One might say, “One must fight merely for one’s right to party,” to coin a phrase.

  29. We can go when we want to
    The night is young and so am I
    And we can dress real neat
    from our hats to our feet
    And surprise ’em with the victory cry

    Say, we can act if want to
    If we don’t nobody will
    And you can act real rude and totally removed
    And I can act like an imbecile.

  30. Hey look, I’m not saying we should limit our outrage. I’m just expressing shock that this admittedly fringe incident stirred up *international attention*. And with all due respect to Bob, I somehow think anything like this appearing in other country’s papers has less to do with monitoring the state of freedom in America, and more to do with just plain laziness.

  31. Hey look, I’m not saying we should limit our outrage. I’m just expressing shock that this admittedly fringe incident stirred up *international attention*

    In the capital city of the alleged land of the free, a few harmless people quietly gathered at a public place were ordered by police to disperse for no apparent reason, and one of them was arrested for merely asking “why.” Yes, I’d say that’s worthy of attention.

  32. I don’t find it all that surprising. A relatively minor incident can outshine more egregious events just because they are symbolic.

    Symbolism goes a long way…

  33. David(nto),
    Juanita is always sarcastic. Well, actually she is the perfect “right wing” strawman. Waste not your time on her as her tune never changes and the shrillness never abates.

    Kwix, lay off Juanita, dammit. I think she wants me.

  34. Stevo,

    Isn’t that what I said?

    I envision a day when crack squads of dancers will control every monument in America. We’ll know they’ve won when a disco globe is gently hung over Jefferson’s head.

  35. Don’t talk to the press? That’s stupid . Her fifteen minutes will be gone before she even has a chance to enjoy them.

  36. PNPI,

    Yes, safety is important even while dancing.

  37. Many points cause this to be a wide-spread and followed story.

    1) The celebration in question was to be held in the Honor of Thomas Jefferson on his Birthday. Jefferson was very outspoken concerning authoritative and tyrannical governments; as well as The Rights of the People, not the rights of the State, being of supreme importance.

    2) As mentioned previously, this is in the capital city of the United States of America, on at a National Landmark to the principle Author of the Declaration of Independence (and religious freedom in the United States).

    3) In 2002 (September), the D.C. Metro Police, and the FBI, working in tandem, illegally detained, arrested, and gathered information from over 400 people in Pershing Park.

    A side note: As a result of litigation brought against the City, Chief of Police, the F.B.I., and the partridge in the pear tree – the City passed the bill “First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004.” I am unsure if the National Park Police are required to adhere to the requirements of this bill.

    4) The person arrested in a known and declared Libertarian. And only during the times of McCarthy and the current Administration, does the title “Libertarian” get twisted into something that is the antithesis of Patriotic.

    5) The Media is obviously tired of reporting on McCain said this about Obama, and Obama says this, and Clinton says this – and they all agree not to agree, blah, blah, blah.

    6) The U.S., and several countries in Europe are grilling China concerning their Human Rights Abuse records – and here it appears as though more rights are being sucked from the barren husk that was once the full and ripe Constitution.

    7) The Supreme Court is currently working the 2nd Amendment and its implied meaning by the Founding Fathers. So, with Second Amendment viewed as in Jeopardy, the Fourth and Sixth Amendment already dispatched by the Current Administration (under the guise of “Its better for the American People,” and “In the name of National Security”), and the Eighth ignored completely (Cruel and Unusual punishment – see GTMO and Abu Ghraib) – people are a bit learly of loosing what few they have left.

    8) Youtube… Need I say more?

    *deposits two cents*

  38. Guile: I love the general spirit of outrage, but I would like to correct a few minor things:

    1) Anti-war dissenters have almost always been subjected to harsh treatment from American society. I reference you to Royalists in the Revolution; the backlash against the Whigs because of Lincoln and others who opposed the Mexican-American War; and the lynchings and official suppression by Wilson of those who opposed WWI.

    Things are probably better now than they have ever been in terms of freedom to protest.

    2) The 8th Amendment does not extend to the treatment of international prisoners of war. Those individuals are covered under international law, not the Bill of Rights.

    I agree with those who see this as a case of something so absurdly small and insignificant that the true tragedy is that the authorities would ever cause it to be on the radar at all.

  39. (Originally posted somewhere else. Partly revised.)

    INT. JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

    Princess Brooke Organawetter is led down a low-ceilinged hallway by a squad of armored stormtroopers. Her hands are bound and she is brutally shoved when she is unable to keep up with the briskly marching troops. They stop in a smoky hallway as Park Policer emerges from the shadows. The sinister Park Lord of the Sith stares hard at the frail young libertarian, but she doesn’t quaver.

    BROOKE
    Lord Policer, I should have known. Only you could be so bold. The American people will not sit for this! When they hear you’ve attacked a celebratory —

    POLICER
    Don’t play games with me, Your Freeness. You weren’t on any dancing mission this time. You passed directly through a restricted public monument. Several video transmissions were beamed from this monument by Libertarian hipsters. I want to know what happened to the videos they sent out.

    BROOKE
    I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the American public on a celebratory dance mission to the Jefferson Memor —

    POLICER
    You’re a part of the Libertarian Alliance and a traitor! Take her away!

    Brooke is marched away down the hallway and into the smoldering hole the police blasted in the side of the Memorial. An Imperial Commander turns to Policer.

    COMMANDER
    Holding her is dangerous. If word of this gets out, it could generate sympathy for the Libertarians among the public.

    POLICER
    I have traced the Libertarian hipsters to her. Now she is my only link to finding their secret base!

    COMMANDER
    She’ll die before she tells you anything.

    POLICER
    Leave that to me.

    Meanwhile, the libertarian droids Free-Threepio and R2-P2 escape to the surface of the planet Reasontooine. R2-P2 plays a holographic message for a young farmer, Luke Shyblogger.

    BROOKE (HOLOGRAM)
    Help me, Radleywan Balkonobi! You’re my only hope!

    Luke and the droids cross the desert to deliver the message to Balkonobi.

    RADLEYWAN
    You must learn the ways of PayPal online donation if you’re to contribute to the princess’s defense fund, Luke.

    LUKE
    Donation? I’m not going to make a donation. I’ve got to go home. It’s late, I’m in for it as it is.

    RADLEYWAN
    I need your help, Luke. She needs your help. I’m getting too old for this sort of thing.

    LUKE
    I can’t get involved! I’ve got work to do! It’s not that I like the Police Empire. I hate it! But there’s nothing I can do about it right now. It’s such a long way from here.

    RADLEYWAN
    That’s your uncle talking.

    LUKE
    Oh, God, my uncle. How am I ever going to explain this?

    BEN: Learn about the ways of PayPal, Luke.

    LUKE: Look, I can post comments on the Internet. I can support you that way, and maybe someone else will help with the defense fund or whatever.

    RADLEYWAN
    You must do what you feel is right, of course.

    —————————–

    SAVE THE PRINCESS, SHYBLOGGER!

  40. Oops — that one “BEN” is supposed to be “RADLEYWAN,” of course. The server hiccupped the first time I tried to “preview” this and I panicked.

  41. I see a pattern here. Police are scared shitless now of any unusual occurrence in public spaces, like this and like the electric lights in Boston.

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