Park Police to probe arrests of dancing protesters
(AP, ABC7) - The U.S. Park Police is investigating whether its officers were too aggressive in arresting five demonstrators who were dancing in protest over the weekend at the Jefferson Memorial.
Videos that have surfaced online show the officers forcefully arresting the protesters on Saturday afternoon. One officer is seen in the videos with his hands around a protester's throat.
Protesters are organizing another dance at the memorial on Saturday, June 4. Two Facebook event pages called "Global Dance Party for Thomas Jefferson Memorial" and "Dance Party @ TJ's" together had over 2,800 members Tuesday afternoon.
About a dozen people last Saturday were challenging a recent federal appeals court decision that bans dancing at solemn places like the Jefferson Memorial in order to maintain the atmosphere of calm, tranquility, and reverence.
"The obvious stupidity of that regulation is being shown to a lot of people and getting them fired up about freedom,” said Adam Kokesh, one of those arrested.
The protesters were warned that if they danced they would go to jail. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser said Monday that concerns have been raised about the actions of some of the officers, and the chief has directed the Office of Professional Responsibility to conduct an investigation. Schlosser says the protesters were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.
The court ruling which prompted the protest came from a lawsuit filled by Mary Oberwetter who was arrested in 2008 for dancing at the memorial on Jefferson’s birthday.
"She was thrown to the columns, chained. I thought that was a travesty,” said Edward Dickey, who organized the protest.
While five people were areested on Saturday many others were forced to leave the memorial, including a credentialed press photographer. Organizers of last Saturday's protest have set up a Facebook page asking people to come back and dance next Saturday. So far, more than 100 people have replied saying they plan to come.
"I think Jefferson would approve," said Janice Greene of San Franscisco.
Watch the video below.