Dancing protesters return to Jefferson Memorial in DC to challenge court decision, arrests

WASHINGTON — U.S. Park Police broke up another protest Saturday by demonstrators who want to dance at the Jefferson Memorial in the nation’s capital.

Officers shut down the memorial and cleared dozens of people from the rotunda a week after five dancing demonstrators were forcefully arrested for dancing there. Instead of making arrests this time, officers pushed the latest demonstration out onto the memorial’s front steps and briefly closed the memorial to tourists.

The demonstrators are challenging a recent federal appeals court decision that upheld a ban on dancing inside the memorial. The demonstrators argue dancing is free expression. The case stems from a 2008 incident during which a group came to the memorial as part of a flash mob to dance to music on their headphones.

A Park Police spokesman did not immediately respond to telephone calls requesting comment Saturday.

Park Police are investigating whether officers were too aggressive in arresting the demonstrators a week earlier. Videos posted online show an officer with his hands around a protester’s throat. A demonstrator is also shown being slammed to the ground.

In the latest protest, dozens of people gathered at the memorial at noon Saturday. Police allowed the demonstrators to dance for about 15 minutes — some with headphones in their ears — before ordering them to leave.

One man wore a huge Thomas Jefferson head, and another wore an Abraham Lincoln top hat.

Police closed the memorial to tourists as well for about an hour, posting a sign that read “Monument Temporarily Closed.”

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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