Dance Like Nobody's Watching, Except the Park Police


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.