WASHINGTON – (June 4, 2011) – Protesters kept their promise to silently dance at the Jefferson Memorial today.
Last week, Capitol Park Police arrested four men and a woman for illegally dancing inside the monument, charging them with demonstrating without a permit.
The dancers were protesting a recent court ruling upholding the 2008 arrest of Mary Oberwetter.
Oberwetter was part of a group of 18 people who went to the Jefferson Memorial in April of that year to celebrate the third president’s birthday. Just before midnight, the flash mob began dancing silently to honor “the individualist spirit for which Jefferson is known.” U.S. Park Police warned the group to stop and ultimately arrested Oberwetter, charging her with demonstrating without a permit and interfering with an agency function.
Talley TV live-streamed Saturday’s protest, with Jason Talley operating the camera.
It was difficult to determine the number of demonstrators via the live stream, although it was clearly a larger number than the previous week’s group of about a dozen dancers.
As the noon start-time approached, nearly 1,000 viewers were tuned into the live-stream. Upwards of 2,000 viewers watched at the peak.
Police stationed at least one officer armed with an automatic weapon at the monument prior to the dance.
Protesters representing a variety of groups from across the country, including Code Pink, made their way to the memorial to join the dance.
“We don’t care about political boundaries, we care about freedom,” one organizer said.
A man wearing a costume topped with an over sized Thomas Jefferson head spoke outside of the monument prior to the dance.
“We will take back our country one dance step at a time,” he said.
At noon, Adam Kokesh spoke through a bullhorn on the monument steps.
“It is time for peaceful non-compliance. It is time to withdraw our support for the government,” he said.
Then Kokesh invoked Jefferson’s name.
“In his honor and in his spirit, we will continue to dance where we want.”
Kokesh, a well known political and anti-war activist, was instrumental in organizing the dance. He hosts the Adam vs. The Man radio show. The the liberty themed program generated some controversy when it was picked up by Russia Today television network, funded by the Russian government.
Several hundred people entered the memorial chamber around 12:05 p.m. and began moving around Jefferson’s statue, silently dancing. The quiet atmosphere was quickly shattered as dancers began shouting, “This is what freedom looks like. This is what liberty looks like.”
Police looked on for more than five minutes, allowing the demonstration to continue without interference. At that point, Kokesh began directing dancers to make one more lap and leave.
One protestor approached a police officer who was looking on.
“You are forced to stand down because we are your bosses. You work for us.”
At 12:17 p.m., police, some wearing hard helmets, formed a line and began moving most of the protestors out of the inner chamber. But numerous people remained inside, continuing their silent dance. Others filtered back in, and the rotunda quickly filled again.
Police announced the memorial was closed and put up fences, leaving just one route of exit. Officers would not answer questions as to why the fences were erected. At 12:30 p.m., police were aggressively pushing people out of the monument, but refrained from using excessive force.
Police moved Talley outside.
“You’re putting your hand on me,” he stated as an officer directed him out of the chamber. “Are you prepared to use violence on the people inside?”
The officer did not respond.
At 12:38 p.m., the live-stream went off the air.
It remains unclear what the police intended to do with those remaining inside memorial.
The stream resumed from outside the Jefferson Memorial at 12:51 p.m. A large number of demonstrators remained assembled on the memorial steps. Police on horseback patrolled the area.
There were no reported arrests. According to an NBC Washington website story, officers gave stragglers three warnings to clear the rotunda. By the third warning, all of the dancer had left the inside of the memorial.
“We won!” Kokesh posted on his Facebook page after the protest.
For a photo gallery courtesy of NBC Washington channel 4, click here.