Iwatched the video “Come Dance With Me” before CounterPunch selected it as the website of the day with this title: “If You Dance, You Will Be Arrested.” Activists were arrested on Saturday, May 28, for swaying, moving their arms, anything police officers who patrolled the Thomas Jefferson Memorial construed as dancing (freedom of expression) which according to the officers is a demonstration.
Back-story: Earlier in May, A U.S. Appeals Court handed down a decision that banned dancing inside the memorial. Those arrested gathered to oppose this ruling that’s a violation of the First Amendment.
The video is shocking.
I heard a participant ask, “What law is that?”
Then, I watched an officer arrest two people who were embracing, barely moving.
Several times, someone said, “This is ridiculous.” And, “What is going on here?”
“This is America,” another said.
The officers were brutal with Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh who wasn’t exactly resisting arrest. He just wasn’t cooperating. An officer shouted, “This is your last warning. This is your last warning.” Thrown to the ground, Kokesh was body slammed and choked.
The video is stunning proof of abuse of power. When it went viral, even the MSM took notice. People from all political persuasions began expressing outrage.
Soon, a Facebook event page was put up to announce a dance the following Saturday.
On June 4th, a large crowd gathered to dance at the Jefferson Memorial. Later, I watched CODEPINK’s video of this action.
In this one, Adam Kokesh took the microphone and said, “This is a cause that transcends partisanship or ideology of any kind because this is about basic human dignity, so let’s dance.”
And they did. Tighe Barry yelled, “This is what freedom looks like. This is what we look like.” At some point, park police temporarily closed the area but the dancers moved to the steps where they chanted and sang, “We can dance. We can dance. Liberty is our goal.”
At the end of the video, Medea Benjamin said,
?So many of us were inside expressing ourselves through joy, and the police were there, armed to the teeth, but they didn’t do a thing, and that is beautiful and that’s showing a lesson in democracy not only to the park police but to the rest of this country and around the world?.
My reaction to the second video was astoundingly different from the first. I couldn’t watch without questioning the celebratory mood of the dancers.
I have respect for anyone willing to be arrested for challenging an evermore-repressive “leadership” that disregards the Constitution and democratic ideals while uttering platitudes about spreading democracy to other countries. Benjamin has engaged in acts of great courage for years. But I fail to see her “lesson in democracy” this time. If the world were watching, the reaction might be a little like mine?that US Empire continues to exact unbearable human suffering throughout the world in the name of democracy. Compared to the atrocities being committed in our names, crowing about not getting arrested for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial is supercilious and obnoxious.
Jane Doe is a long-time member of Code Pink.