Below The Beltway

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Jack-Booted Thugs At The Jefferson Memorial

by @ 8:46 am on April 13, 2008. Filed under Dumbasses, In The News

Radley Balko writes about a little bit of police over-reaction during an impromptu birthday party for Thomas Jefferson:

Tonight, a group of about 20 D.C.-area libertarians headed down to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial for some flash mob fun. The prank was harmless revelry: To ring in Jefferson’s birthday, we would meet on the steps of the memorial at 11:55pm, wearing iPods, then dance for about 10 minutes, capture the whole thing on video, and leave.

Courtney and I were about 10 minutes late, but by the time we arrived it was already over. The National Park Police broke the whole thing up just a few minutes in, punctuating their lack of a sense of humor by arresting one of the dancers (we’re keeping her name private at least until she’s released later this morning). She was cuffed, taken out to a paddy wagon, then booked and held at a Park Police station. Everyone I spoke with says there was no noise, there were no threats, and no laws broken (the park police I spoke with–including the arresting officer (who, oddly enough, denied to me that he was the arresting officer)–declined to say why she had been arrested).

The police refused to answer any questions, referring all calls to the communication number of the Park Police, which at this hour is closed. They also refused to give their badge numbers.

(…)

Of course, the real irony here is that all of this happened at the Jefferson Memorial, in observance of Jefferson’s birthday. Go out to celebrate the birth of the most hardcore, anti-authoritarian of the Founding Fathers, get hauled off in handcuffs. The photo’s almost poetry, isn’t it? One of history’s most articulate critics of abuse of state authority looks on as a park police cop uses his elbow to push a female arrestee into one of said critic’s memorial pillars.

All this while the man who said “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” watched on in eternal silence.

Megan McArdle makes this observation:

The background: twenty people were at the Jefferson Memorial, dancing to the private groove of their own iPods so as not to disturb anyone. Apparently cops showed up and ordered them to disperse anyway, despite the fact that they were not doing anything obviously illegal. One of the libertarians joyfully (yet tastefully and quietly) celebrating the birthday of a favorite founding father questioned why they should have to move along–at which point one of DC’s finest shoved them up against a pillar, cuffed their hands behind their back, and hauled them away.

As a resident of DC, I’m certainly overjoyed to hear that violent crime has fallen to a level where we can spare valuable police resources to fight the silent scourge of . . . dancing. Now that we have no more murders or muggings, it seems to me that we should also be looking at newsboys who smoke, women who attend the theater, and of course, the iniquitous habit of playing cards on the sabbath.

(…)

[T]he problem here is not that one of my friends, an educated white girl, had to spend five hours or so being harassed by the police. It is that the police think that questioning orders constitutes disorderly conduct. And that the result of questioning them is probably a lot more than moderate harassment when the questioner is not an educated white girl with a lot of camera toting friends.

And James Joyner observes:

I’m concerned with the increasing friction between ordinary citizens and the police. The days when the police spoke to the general public — whom they are paid to serve — with polite deference are long gone. Instead, most have adopted a bullying attitude and demand to be treated with unearned deference. We’ve gone from Joe Friday and Andy Taylor to “Cops” and “The Wire.”

Well put, but I’ve got to wonder if part of the reason for that is that we’ve increasingly trained the police to look at every little petty offense, including dancing to your iPod on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, as a grave threat to public safety.

9 Responses to “Jack-Booted Thugs At The Jefferson Memorial”

  1. Sisyphos says:

    Just can’t believe it.

  2. [...] étatique pourrait prendre sur le peuple, il est une des figures tutélaires des libertariens du monde entier. La démocratie n’est rien d’autre que la loi de la foule, où cinquante-et-un pour [...]

  3. [...] Via Radley Balko comes this interview with two witnesses to last night’s display of police foolishness at the Jefferson Memorial: [...]

  4. Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!…

    Today’s the 265th birthday of Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), 3rd president of the United States and especially the author of the Declaration of Independence:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they a….

  5. Obbop says:

    The elite’s government FEARS you!!!!!!

    Their fear is manifested in the laws they pass. Here is a law banning what MANY of the Founders wrote is a RIGHT of citizens when a government no longer represents them:

    Section 2385. Advocating overthrow of Government

    Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or
    teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of
    overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or
    the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession
    thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by
    force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any
    such government; or
    Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any
    such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates,
    sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed
    matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity,
    desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any
    government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts
    to do so; or
    Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society,
    group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the
    overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or
    violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any
    such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes
    thereof –
    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
    twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by
    the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five
    years next following his conviction.
    If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in
    this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned
    not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for
    employment by the United States or any department or agency
    thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
    As used in this section, the terms ”organizes” and
    ”organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of
    persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new
    units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes,
    and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.

    The federal government is allowing MILLIONS of illegals to invade our country who are causing immense economic harm to America’s working poor. Corporate America is becoming increasingly more powerful and influential. Yet, according to the government of for and by the elites YOU, a citizen, have to accept whatever the government does with NO recourse other than voting…… and there is sufficient proof that shows to me voting is worthless since the entrenched power structure ensures that the emplaced elite class can not be removed.

    Several Founders specifically wrote of the people’s right to abolish a government when it no longer represents them.

    We are forced to live under an elite’s TYRANNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. [...] Below The Beltway: Jack-Booted Thugs At The Jefferson Memorial [...]

  7. J. Tyler Ballance says:

    You should be thanking the Sally Soccermoms who kept pushing for more and more police power so that they would “feel safe” in all of that post 9/11 hysteria.

    Bush and his Neocon buddies were all too happy to fully fund increased police powers. Only an idiot would not have foreseen that with increased power and technology, the police would surely turn their new toys against the citizens.

    What to do now? Well, our founders would have shot those so-called “police” through their heads and hung them from the nearest trees, all the while chanting, “Sic Semper Tyrannis!”

    However, as an intermediate step: Insist that your friends and acquaintances get politically active and support only candidates who pledge to return our government back to within its Constitutional limits. Write to existing elected representatives and ask them to pledge a return to Constitutional government. For all candidates, ask them what they have done and will do to enhance our civil liberties.

    We have a tool that is equally effective to the bullet to effect revolution. We have the ballot; if we would only use that power wisely.

  8. mike says:

    The first thing we need to do is get rid of the electronic, programmable voting machines, and go back to hand-counted paper ballots, with bi-partisan oversight of the count and chain of custody; then our votes will count again!!!! see http://www.votefraud.org

  9. Arrested @ the Thomas Jefferson Memorial…

    Many people have already heard of this. But seeing these young and inoffensive people getting interrupted and arrested by all-too zealous policemen at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial! really makes you feel you’re in some sort of 1984-parody….

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