Republican-dominated flash mob draws support, criticism

Jefferson

Republican operatives seem to have found a new organizing tool: dancing in the dark at the Jefferson Memorial.

These "dance parties" are a response to a recent legal battle involving Mary Oberwetter, a libertarian Republican activist who was arrested for organizing without a permit a midnight silent flash mob at the memorial on Thomas Jefferson's birthday in 2008. Oberwetter, daughter of Republican former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and big oil lobbyist James Oberwetter, sued the National Park Service over the arrest, claiming dance was covered by her First Amendment rights.

Recently, Judge John Bates ruled against Ms. Obewetter, upholding the ban on demonstrations at the memorial. He stated in his ruling that "expressive dancing" interfered with the memorial's "atmosphere of calm, tranquility and reverence," an atmosphere that the Park Police are charged with keeping.

The dance party events are the brainchild of Adam Kokesh, who describes himself as a libertarian Republican and comes from the Ron Paul wing of the activist right. He is a reporter for RT Television, an Iraq war vet and former Republican 3rd Congressional District hopeful in New Mexico.

Allegations of police brutality are being directed at the U.S. Park Police after arrests at one of the events. As a result of the organizer's media connections and his public relations efforts, the event was widely reported. It was recorded by various blogs and news outlets and streamed online and on Facebook. The videos quickly went viral on the Internet.

Kokesh and Oberwetter have drawn support from the libertarian blogosphere, including Ron-Paulers, tea party types, Truthers (9-11 conspiracy types) and conservative columnist Alex Jones' fans.

Kokesh claimed the events were "non-political."

In response to the new arrests, the organizers called another "dance party," which took place June 4. According to press reports, a few dozen attended. Park police erected fences to control the flow of people and cleared the memorial of the protesters, mostly people who saw the video online.

An investigation is occurring into the nature of the Park Police's response, including its use of force considering the level of threat involved and a video of Park Police dragging a local news cameraman out by his collar.

The dance parties have prompted a lot of confusion. The park police response elicited a response from many quarters, including Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, who was arrested at one of the protests.

Yet, notwithstanding the overreaction of the park police, or whether their response was right or wrong, can anyone be surprised that in a post-9/11 world there are strictly enforced rules governing what occurs at federal sites?

Still, at a time when young American soldiers are dying abroad, youth employment is at it lowest level ever and students can't afford a college education, making a cause out of young Republicans' right to dance without a permit seems a little phony.

It was Emma Goldman who said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to join your revolution." She was right. Let's dance for jobs, education and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let it be a militant dance against the real enemy: big business, and not a childish prank intended to make "big government" the problem.

Photo: Creative Commons 2.0