National Park Service Issues Statement on Jefferson Memorial ‘Dance Party’

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June 3, 2011
Filed under National Parks, RV News

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By the National Park Service

The following is a statement issued by the National Park Service regarding its policy on dancing and other forms of expression in its federal park system:

The National Park Service supports dancing and other forms of expression in its parks. In light of recent headlines we would like to dispel some myths and misconceptions on what is legal and what is not across the federal park system.

First, the National Park Service has a long and proud tradition of supporting and encouraging First Amendment rights and dancing in our parks is a great way to do this, whether it is on the National Mall on the 4th of July with tens of thousands of people or by yourself in front of a waterfall out west. In fact, we may be the only federal agency that is required by statute to provide for “enjoyment.”

But just as you may not appreciate someone using a cell phone in a movie theater or someone dancing in front of your view of a great work of art, we believe it is not appropriate to be dancing in an area that memorializes some of the most famous Americans.

Visitors come from all over the globe to pay respect to, and read the words of Thomas Jefferson. These words, placed on the inner walls of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial chamber, are a moving testament of the good in humankind. We believe our visitors should be able to enjoy this experience without distractions.

The U.S. Court of Appeals agrees. In a May 17, 2011 decision, the court upheld National Park Service regulations that preserve the solemnity of the Thomas Jefferson National Memorial by prohibiting demonstrations of any kind within the chamber. The court ruled specifically on the act of dancing and found no infringement of First Amendment rights to free speech or free expression.

To protest the court’s decision, a group of dancers convened at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on May 30. They were warned multiple times that dancing was not allowed and chose to continue. Five people were arrested.

Organizers of last week’s protest are now planning a larger demonstration this Saturday, June 4, advertising a “Dance Party @TJ.”

Nearly every day, the national parks of Washington, D.C., are venues for the unfettered exercise of the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. Marches, protests, rallies and other events on the National Mall engage hundreds of thousands of citizens every year in civic and civil debate over serious issues facing our nation. We are proud that federal park land is used for these events.

There are over 2.4 acres of space available to dance or express yourself on the Thomas Jefferson Memorial grounds. We hope anyone who likes to dance in this area takes advantage of that space and allows our other visitors to enjoy a peaceful and inspiring experience in the Thomas Jefferson Memorial chamber.

You can read the U.S. Court of Appeals decision at:

http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/748BE2DE8AF2A2A485257893004E07FC/$file/10-5078-1308285.pdf.

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