Various voices on the D.C. libertarian scene tell me that a uniformed Park Police officer recently paid a visit to the home of Brooke Oberwetter, the Jefferson Memorial dancer arrested last weekend (there were several other people there at the time).
They’re apparently now adding a second charge of “demonstrating without a permit,” and they’re bumping her case from D.C. court to federal court. They’re also expunging the arrest from her record.
I sort of assumed the case would be in federal court anyway, given that the arrest took place on federal property. But I really have no idea if that’s the reason for the change. I’m also not sure why they would expunge the arrest. It isn’t as if they’re cutting her a break–they’re still pressing ahead with charges. It’s as if they’re pretending the handcuffs, escort to the police station, and five hours in police custody didn’t happen.
The second charge is ridiculous–the Memorial guidelines clearly say a permit is only necessary if there are more than 25 people in the group. This event didn’t break 25 people.
But it also makes sense why they’d include it. It isn’t exactly clear what “interfering with an agency function” means, but it sounds something like “refusal to follow a lawful order.” If that is indeed the gist of the charge, the police have to lay down a reason why the order to disperse was lawful in the first place. If the dancers had indeed been demonstrating without a permit, failure to disperse after being ordered to do so would probably amount to a crime. But if they weren’t breaking any laws in the first place, the order to disperse was unlawful, in which case Oberwetter’s arrest for not following it would be unlawful, too.
I am completely speculating, here. If someone with expertise in, er, national park law has any other ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments.
More: Also looks like the Washington Post has corrected its error about Oberwetter repeatedly returning to the chamber after being asked to leave.