DC Criminal Defense Attorney’s Thoughts on Weekend Arrests of Protesters by US Park Police
I just read an article in The Washington Post titled “Park Police probes conduct of officers in arrests of dancing protesters at Jefferson Memorial.” USPP officers are being investigated for using excessive force (here’s a YouTube video) in arresting people for dancing at the Jefferson Memorial in protest of a recent appeals court decision banning dancing, even without music, inside a memorial. According to the article, which appears to be supported by the video, one officer grabbed a protester by the throat. Perhaps the protester was dance fighting. A bigger question is why would a federal appeals court uphold a ban on dancing at a memorial?
I’ve had several experiences with Park Police officers, both professional and personal. I represented an eighteen-year-old man who had the misfortune of supposedly cutting off a USPP cruiser on his ten-speed. An officer drew his assault rifle in response.
I was running with a group of friends in Rock Creek Park on a Saturday morning, at about 10:30 am. Three officers on horseback rode through. One ordered another person who had his dog , a smallish poodle, off of a leash, to leash his dog. The exchange went something like this:
Officer: You better get a leash on that dog.
Citizen: Sorry officer, I’ll go get it. It’s just up the trail a bit.
Officer: You are sorry. You will get that leash.
Citizen: Yes sir, I’ll get the leash.
Officer: You will get that leash.
Citizen: I will.
Officer: You will.
Now, the dog should have been on a leash. But did this require the attention of three mounted police officers, who were all riding together? On second thought, based upon the above exchange, perhaps all three officers need to stick together for problem-solving purposes.
I did a little research on the USPP; it was founded in 1791 by George Washington, and has been protecting our parks for over 200 years. Hopefully officers haven’t been spending all that time focused on the enforcement of dancing bans, and leash laws.
In all of these incidents, it’s clear that the USPP has an utter lack of perspective and lack of focus on priorities, i.e. protecting all of us from violence. Luckily there is video of this incident, otherwise there is no way that anyone would further investigate the memorial incident. What’s scary is that I’ve seen hundreds of cases like this during my years as a criminal defense attorney, only without the video to upload to YouTube. This is one of the reasons I do what I do.
This post was written by Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney and founding partner David Benowitz. He received an LL.M in Trial Advocacy from Temple University, is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, and is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. We are a Washington, DC based law firm with offices in the District, Maryland, Virginia, and New York.