Dancing is Not a Crime

Protestors gathered outside Mayor Bloomberg's house on Saturday afternoon to put a stop to cabaret laws. Cabaret laws control where New Yorkers are allowed to dance. In 1929 New York City took control of where people were permitted to dance in an effort to control interracial integration. Today only 244 restaurants, clubs and bars have a cabaret license, those without a license can be fined thousands and even shut down if they permit dancing within their doors.

On Saturday afternoon the corner of 5th avenue and 79th street was more exhilarating than any other part of the city. An array of people moved their bodies to the beat as a live band jammed from 2-4pm. The crowd, a group that included the old and the young, wore outfits ranging from bright red salsa dresses to patch work pants. A young man screamed, “Power to the people” as the bongo drums’ familiar sound drifted through the air. What appeared to be a random dance party was in fact much more.

The event was an effort to gain support in the ongoing battle to make dancing legal in the city of New York, a battle that has existed for the past eighty years. In the year 1926 New York City established cabaret laws in an effort to put an end to interracial interaction which the powers that were felt occurred too often within the jazz scene. Of the many rules within this law, one made dancing in public space illegal, unless that space had a cabaret license, which were and still are extremely hard to get.

The crowd, which strategically gathered on the corner of Mayor Bloomberg’s house, came together to show their fury towards the control the government has permitted itself when it comes to the expressive behavior of dancing, something many New Yorkers feel should be protected under the first amendment. Norman Siegel, an attorney fighting to eradicate the cabaret laws, said, “When you have a law that says you can’t get up and dance when you hear the music that is the beginning of a repressive government.”

Although dancing is a form of expressive behavior, the City’s cabaret laws restrict where an individual is allowed to dance, thus simultaneously restricting where an individual is allowed to practice their constitutional rights. These laws are irrational and unconstitutional. If you want to be able to bust a move in every corner of the five boroughs without worrying that your favorite bar, club or restaurant might be fined thousands of dollars, check out metropolisinmotion.com to see what you can do to prove that “Dancing is Not a Crime!”.

homepage:: http://nyc.indymedia.org/

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