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Tuesday, June 7, 2011



The Right to Dance: Written by Richard C. Ehrbar III 
During the late night of April 12, 2008, Mary Oberwetter and a small group of individuals decided to gather to pay homage to America’s foremost freedoms of expression and individual rights.
The anniversary of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday was to transpire in the coming minutes, and those who gathered at the Thomas Jefferson memorial in DC had planned on celebrating the life and memory of the champion of the 1st Amendment. To celebrate this day in history, and the ideals of free thought and expression, Oberwetter and others’ decision to dance, would have been an appropriate mode of expression. Surely, nobody could be hurt or distracted by this harmless act.
But alas, Oberwetter and the others were told that the dancing had to stop. “Why?” Oberwetter asked the DC Parks Police. And this simple inquiry dear friend, led Oberwetter to be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor count of interfering with agency functions. She was later released and the charges were dropped.
Fast forward to May 17, 2011. After appealing the constitutionality of the arrest, conservative judge John Bates, appointed by President George W. Bush, declared the memorial should retain a “tranquil and contemplative mood”, thereby officially deeming it illegal to dance at the Jefferson memorial.
Sensing the utter absurdity of the Bates ruling, a small group of five DC area activists, including Iraq war veteran Adam Kokesh (host of RT’s Adam vs The Man), Eddie Freeman, Jared Denman, Medea Benjamin, and another unidentified activist decided to go and dance again at the memorial. What ensued on Saturday, May 28, 2011 would turn the stomachs of those in the USA and around the world. Freeman and the others were arrested. However, Kokesh was not only arrested, but he was also body slammed onto the marble floor and choked by the DC Parks Police. 

In a savvy move, the activists had their cameras rolling and spread the news of the arrests in a viral fashion over the internet. Before the activists had arrived at the nearby Anacostia precinct, thousands of calls had flooded the non emergency phone lines, to the point where the precinct had to set up a special redirect line in order to free up the non emergency lines. For a moment in time, the only way to get through to the Anacostia police was through emergency 911. In a matter of a few short hours the activists were released.
That night, Kokesh and the others decided they were going to dance again, only this time it would be much larger. The date was set for June 4th. The site – you guessed it - the Thomas Jefferson memorial. Hours after forming the official Dance Party At TJ’s facebook event page, hundreds of activists across the nation committed to dancing in solidarity at the memorial. In a matter of a few days, the phenomenon had gone global. Thousands of individuals in twenty two states and thirty four cities across the nation, in addition to twenty seven international countries formed solidarity groups which decided to dance at local statehouses, federal buildings, front yards, museums, and street corners in support of those who were risking their freedom in DC. Nearly 1,000 individuals gathered in DC to dance. None were arrested this time!
As stated above, in addition to the dance in DC, numerous cities across the country got involved, including our very own Columbus, Ohio. Joined at the downtown Statehouse, a small group gathered and braved 90+ degree heat in order to dance in solidarity. Libertarians, anarchists, progressives, conservatives and the apolitical were present. The dance went off without a hitch, even including one member of the statehouse security joining for a brief moment to shake her booty! The DC Parks Police could’ve learned something from her example of respect and kindness.
A nation still reeling from the murder of former Marine Jose Guerena by the Tuscon, Arizona SWAT, the extension of the Patriot Act, ever increasing police brutality, and the increase in violent United States war interventions around the world found a small yet significant victory in the freedom to dance. Yes, dance!

Some may find this as largely symbolic, devoid of any tangible returns. However, at a time in our nations history when freedom of expression is being taken away by our legislators and judges in systematic fashion, and at a time when most individuals are fearful of activism due to harsh police state repression, the idea that folks gathered to dance around the globe as well as in DC without any arrests shows the true power of individuals gathering en masse to collectively shout “We’re not going to take this repression any longer!”.
For information on the coming developments related to this movement, please visit

Richard C. Ehrbar III
Organizer for Movement: Right to Dance
Strategic Communications Major
Junior @ The Ohio State University


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