Dance Like Nobody's Watching, Except the Park Police


dance dance revolution

Late night "expressive dancing" in honor of a Founding Father at a major national monument is not protected by the Constitution, in case you were wondering.

Brooke Oberwetter, an occasional contributor to Reason, got her groove on at the Jefferson Memorial way back in 2008. She engaged in a little celebratory (and silent) boogie woogie in honor of the big stone patriot's birthday (see the crappy video here) and was arrested for her pains.

Despite that fact that her midnight nerd birthday celebrations was unlikely to draw a crowd, the D.C. Circuit Court found:

the conduct is nonetheless prohibited because it stands out as a type of performance, creating its own center of attention and distracting from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration that the Regulations are designed to preserve.

As Eugene Volokh notes, the decision is actually quite reasonable, even though it sends many people's libertarian hypocrisy meters through the roof. After all, the interior of a monument is a "nonpublic forum" and therefore not governed by the same rules as, say, a public sidewalk. The court generously notes, however:

Outside the Jefferson Memorial, of course, Oberwetter and her friends have always been free to dance to their hearts' content. 

Reading the actual decision yields this tasty footnoted tidbit:

For his part, Mr. Jefferson is on record discouraging celebration of his birthday. "On Mr. Jefferson's accession to the Presidency [visitors] had waited on him, requesting to be informed, which was his birthday, as they wished to celebrate it with proper respect. 'The only birthday I ever commemorate,' replied he, 'is that of our Independence, the Fourth of July.'" THE  FIRST FORTY  YEARS OF WASHINGTON  SOCIETY  398 (Gaillard Hunt ed., Scribner's Sons 1906).  

Read Reason's past coverage here.

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  1. Okay, perhaps May 21 really is the Rapture.

  2. I hope this is appealed and overturned. Otherwise we need mass civil disobediance.

    1. We need a website. Now.

    2. THIS. Except: don’t wait to be appealed and overturned. Just DISOBEY. They don’t get to dictate the limits of our rights in trivial ways such as these, on property that was paid for by the labor of taxpayers.

  3. Real holographic simulated evil Jefferson is baaaaaaack!

  4. Once you get past the slave-fucking and going into debt, T-Jeff wasn’t that bad of a guy.

    1. Now, as for Mr. Linclon………………..

      Well, he was tall and he had a full head of hair.

  5. You could say that Jefferson died celebrating Independence day.


  6. the conduct is nonetheless prohibited because it stands out as a type of performance, creating its own center of attention and distracting from the atmosphere of solemn commemoration that the Regulations are designed to preserve.

    I uhh, what now?

    1. Yes, distracting without a license is a crime.

    2. Does this mean that we can’t dance on the graves of people we don’t like?

      I have to retract an awful lot of threats I’ve made over my life.

      1. My grave will have a false dirt mound which will easily give way to some sort of pit of alligators or piranhas.

        I expect a lot of visitors when I’m gone.

        1. I thought we cleared up the punji pit thing yesterday. Did that only apply to real property?

  7. I’m surprised it’s not public property.

    1. All public property is theft.

  8. She was only dancing at the Jefferson because the Lincoln Memorial was too crowded.

    1. Exactly. And it wouldn’t have been a problem if only she had one of those badges that allow you to see Barbara Bush in the bathtub.

      1. …allow you to see Barbara Bush in the bathtub.

        Which one?

        Aw, who am I kidding? I’d hit it either way.

        1. **BARF**

        2. when I’m 80, I hope to be able to hit something that looks that well. Bush the Elder isn’t so bad for someone that old, either. Good genes passed down to at least one of their granddaughters, I guess. Can’t say the same for intelligence.

          1. … be able to hit something that looks that well.

            I thought she wore glasses.

            1. Sloopy, you are on fucking FIRE tonight! +2 lulz

  9. FWIW, I read the declaration of independence out loud on the 4th of July in the rotunda of the memorial. The police got up to stop me but the ranger stopped the police before they got to me. I was standing underneath the facade with the text, though. Next time, I’m going to be at his feet, where the connection won’t be so obvious and i’ll be closer to the police.

      1. Why not? The Declaration was TJ’s crowning moment. Whatever else he did, he deserves some credit for that on the appropriate day.

        1. I’m going to do that this year, except I’m gonna dress up like a buck-toothed Jap and mispronounce all my r’s and l’s.

          I think our government would be OK with that.

          1. buy yourself a dvorak keyboard first.

    1. WTF? What a great vision, a person (peacefully I assume) reading the DofI and the cops come to stop you? What the fuck would the charge be, reading without a permit?


      1. did I say WTF?

      2. Why? Because not everyone is familiar with the way that the DofI starts (it’s not like the first words are “we hold these truths”). Public schools. Also, I like to read it loud, as in angry, because that IS the tone of the article.

        So, some kid getting up on a bench in the rotunda shouting about overthrowing governments?? If I were a dumb park police cop, I’d start worrying. Plus, he didn’t get that far, he got to the threshold of the rotunda. All I remember was there was some finger pointing in my direction and a conference with the ranger. Honestly, I was mostly looking at the paper in my hand.

        1. anticipating trouble, I was sure to walk over there from my home with no marks of identification.

    2. You are awesome, man. Keep it up.

  10. Fucking DC Park Police. They haven’t done a single thing right since the Vincent Foster murder and cover-up.

    1. also, lol!

  11. “As Eugene Volokh notes, the decision is actually quite reasonable, even though it sends many people’s libertarian hypocrisy meters through the roof.”

    It might be libertarian wise OK, but it still pegs my “Police are dicks” meter. Seriously, silent dancing requires police action?

    1. Seriously, silent dancing requires police action?

      They didn’t have anything else to do, and had not yet made their arrest quota for the day.

  12. So where is she performing next? All the women I know require me to have a fist full of ones to dance and I am broke.

  13. Looks like the late-night “expressive dancing” party was regrettably missing the appropriate party punch.

  14. What if she carried a sign, something like “God kills the troops because of fags”, and was also a member of a fringe cult…I bet then the courts would really say you can’t protest at a private soldier’s grave too.

    I wonder if there is a case like that?…

  15. When the park polis have nothing better to do than hassle, restrain and charge a silent, dancing girl, the terrorists have won.

  16. Maria Shriver: “My concern is for TEH CHIULDRENZZS!!!1!!”

    Drink up, Maria!

  17. Not only is this stupid, but all sorts of people do shit at the Jefferson memorial. I myself witnessed a bunch of Pagens holding some sort of solstice celebration there a number of years ago. I’m pretty sure it involved dancing too.

  18. I find it incredibly ironic that police are so prone to endorsing cameras to watch civilians but flip out when we try and film them.…..-film-cops

  19. Bah. Next thing you know they’ll be banning people from doing those staged photos where they use depth perspective to pretend the washington monument is poking them in the butt. This is a time-honored American tradition. And this man is a patriot:…..nument.jpg

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