from the sweet, we're puritans again! dept
Flash mobs are an odd sort of creature in the internet age. They’ve resulted in some really cool public "performances", fun little comedic bits, and are now being used to raise protests quickly organized through social networks like Twitter and Facebook. We saw what happened with the assistance of social media in the so-called Arab Spring, and the way some nations in the Middle East responded harshly to the protesters. But what about in America?
Warning: be prepared to be thoroughly pissed off.
It all started in 2008, when a flash mob was organized to dance silently (to music listened to by each individual with his or her own private headphones/music player) at the Jefferson Memorial to commemorate the 3rd American President’s 265th birthday. Apparently, this flash mob of clearly dangerous and possibly terror-plot developing waltzers was asked to leave the memorial because…well…you know what? I can’t think of a single good reason why a bunch of people silently dancing at the Jefferson Memorial on his birthday to celebrate his life should have to leave. Jefferson, a musician himself, once wrote that dancing "is a healthy exercise, elegant and very attractive for young people."
But one of the flash mob dancers was cuffed anyway. And when she sued on First Amendment grounds, she was twice told to go boogie because dancing at the memorial, even silently and respectfully, apparently was a “distraction” from the somberness of the memorial.
Upon this appeals court loss, a couple weeks ago, a group was started on Facebook to organize a protest of the ruling over Memorial Day weekend where members would waltz on over to the Jefferson Memorial and dance again, silently and respectfully, without music, so as not to disturb other tourists. It didn’t take long for the police to two-step over and ask them to stop again. In one of the finest examples of why we need to be allowed to videotape law enforcement, police cuffed a couple basically slow dancing in silence, and then lindy hopped on a couple of gentlemen’s heads, while horrified tourists looked on slack-jawed.
Look, I’m Irish, so I come from a lineage whose dance tradition basically consists of playing hacky sack without the sack, but perhaps bodyslamming silently dancing men and women onto the marble floor of a memorial for a patriot dedicated to preserving freedom and battling against needless government tyranny, not a hundred feet from the stenciled words "Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than these people are to be free" might not be the best use of law enforcement, the courts, or much of anything else. Let’s not mince words — this was a peaceful assembly in protest over a court ruling, and in celebration of a Founding Father of the United States. Their treatment by law enforcement was abhorrent.
I’m trying to inject some humor into this because, frankly, I find this whole thing really upsetting. And to be honest, my words alone can’t really describe the level of what occurred here. That’s why, again, I’m thankful that people have cameras on their phones and a platform like YouTube to share the videos, even if it’s stomach-turning to watch the results.