ST. GEORGE – People were dancing on the steps of St. George City Hall Thursday while a disc jockey played tunes like the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)” and “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats on the sidewalk nearby. While most danced, some carried signs and banners protesting what they believe to be a city permitting process that is hostile toward dancing.
One man wearing a cap that identified him as a war veteran carried a sign that read, “I fought for freedom including the right to dance.”
The “dance protest,” as it was called by participants, was a response to the Monster Mash incident that played out between St. George Police officers and members of the Heart of Dixie Events LLC at Fiesta Fun Family Fun Center in St. George last month. A dance party at Fiesta Fun was abruptly shut down after about six police officers arrived to enforce aspects of the city’s permitting process.
Read more about the Monster Mash dance party shut down here.
Before going out to dance in protest Thursday night, a large group gathered inside the St. George City Council chambers to lend their support to others who planned to address the City Council about its permitting process. The process is perceived as being hostile toward dances. Some have thought the city has an ordinance governing dancing specifically, which it does not.
Right or wrong, the city has gained the reputation of being anti-dance.
“It’s not right,” Tiffany Barnes, of St. George, told the City Council. “We have a right to dance.”
Barnes is a part of the Red Rock Swing Dance group. She said the city, through its ordinance governing the permit process, infringes on constitutional rights of assembly and expression.
“Anyone with common sense can recognize this is a frivolous ordinance,” Barnes said.
(report continues below)
Videocast by Samantha Tommer, St. George News
Ed. note on the videocast: K.C. Zeeman identified himself as Volunteer City Council Member to the videographer; he is not a member of the City Council and there are no “volunteer” positions on the City Council. Zeeman said he was asked to be the spokesman for the media at the event.
Jared Keddington, representing the promoter, Heart of Dixie, whose event was shut down, attempted to address the City Council but was denied due to being a Washington City resident. Councilman Gil Almquist, acting as mayor pro tem, said only city residents could address the council during the monthly public comment period.
“Being the guy who started the fire, I’d like to help put it out,” Keddington said.
Almquist said the city will likely be examining its permitting process in the near future. Keddington and others were invited to return and give their insights and suggestions at that time.
As the public comment period concluded, those protesting the city’s permitting ordinance went outside, where music was playing and people were dancing. The dance protest was peaceful, and motorists driving by shouted their support and honked their horns.
Some city officials looked on as the dancing commenced but didn’t interfere, nor was there a uniformed police officer in sight.
Following the meeting, Keddington said he’d like to see event promoters and city staff work together to craft a permitting process that is agreeable to all sides.
He said he plans to keep the momentum going in his fight for change to a more dance-friendly environment.
“We don’t want to back off now,” Keddington said.
As for people dancing on the steps of City Hall, he said the whole thing was surreal to see.
Taylor Gilbert, 16, of St. George, was among the protesters.
“I expect the city to open its eyes and see how passionate people are about this,” Gilbert said.
Currently, groups planning to hold special events in St. George must submit an application to the city 30 days before the scheduled event. This is to allow time for city staff, police and any related third parties to examine the application and make sure applicants have everything in order. Items that are reviewed by the city and others include plans for sanitation, parking, potential traffic impacts, security and so forth. It is then left to the City Council to approve the application and grant the applicant the desired permit.
Keddington said he originally did not know about the permitting requirements until city officials contacted him four days before his event. The city claims Keddington was able to get a permit but not for the dance party. The subsequent misunderstanding made headlines.
“If anyone thinks we are anti-dance on the City Council, we need to correct that immediately because there is not a drop of truth to that,” Councilwoman Bette Ariel said.
And yes, the DJ also played Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” for the protesting dancers.
- Saturday Night Live, satirists poke fun at city over dancing policy
- Crashed Monster Mash dance: Promoter decries, city stands by permit process
- Dancing at Monster Mash party stopped by police over disputed event permit
- On the EDge: Let those young people dance
- What’s in a ‘rave’? City shuts down teenage dance party for Facebook posts
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.