The arrest of five dancers at the Jefferson Memorial last week has stoked outrage from across the political spectrum. A lot of it is justified: The rule against “demonstrations” at federal monuments is at least questionable; the recent decision by a federal court that silently dancing constitutes a “demonstration” is kind of silly; and when one of the protesters refused to be handcuffed despite several warnings, the arresting officer probably could have gained compliance with something short of a body-slam followed by choking.
However, it’s quite obvious from the video that the demonstrators began with the intention of being arrested, and then put on a show for the cameras. From watching this video and several other examples of intentionally provoked “police brutality,” I have come up with what seems to be the modus operandi of activists like the ones involved:
1. Have someone start videotaping.
2. Break a law, preferably a trivial or outright stupid one, in front of a cop.
3. Refuse to stop when he tells you to; or, throw a fit and get in his face.
4. When he goes to arrest you, resist physically, but without violence. That is, refuse to be handcuffed, but don’t hit the cop — unless you’re a woman, in which case some harmless flailing is acceptable.
5. When the cop uses force to gain compliance — and he will, both because that’s what the use-of-force continuum says to do when verbal warnings don’t work, and because he can’t exactly say, “Oh, okay, I won’t arrest you then” — have bystanders act shocked and appalled by what they see.
He attacked you, and you didn’t do anything to threaten him! And all over some minor infraction!
Don’t get me wrong. While I’m sympathetic to police officers (my father was in the Wisconsin State Patrol for several decades), I recognize that police misconduct is a serious issue and sometimes happens without provocation. Liberty-loving people should hold police accountable, even when they were provoked before they behaved badly. The Park Police are looking into the Jefferson Memorial incident, and if they determine that the officers violated protocol, the officers should be disciplined.
But forgive me if I don’t see the demonstrators in a favorable light.