UAPD disperses Harlem Shake crowd, student organizer ticketed
UAPD ticketed the student organizer of Monday afternoon’s Harlem Shake filming, saying the organizers lacked official University permission to assemble.
“They told me not to talk to the press,” Nojan Radfar, a freshman who organized the event, said. “As of right now, I just have a ticket, but I’m worried I could be expelled.”
Radfar was pulled aside in front of Gorgas Library to speak with UAPD and University officials for nearly half an hour. He later returned to address the crowd, asking them to go home.
“Harlem Shake” is a song by Bauuer, a Brooklyn-based producer and DJ. In February, a YouTube video featuring the song and an accompanying dance went viral, spawning an online craze for remaking the video.
Several other SEC student bodies have filmed their own Harlem Shake videos, including several athletic teams. Alabama’s event organizers wanted the Quad’s Harlem Shake to be bigger than those videos.
“We were supposed to outdo all the other schools. I mean, we spread the word, made the fliers and made the Facebook group, just to see it shut down by the cops,” freshman Ben Hartmann said as he watched the disgruntled crowd disperse.
UA student Hannah Griffin was surprised at the size of the event, but she doesn’t think as many people will show up if it is replicated in the future.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be something big,” Griffin said. “I didn’t think that too many people would show up, but it was huge. I think after 10 days it won’t be as big, especially after we all waited 30 minutes for it to start.”
University spokeswoman Cathy Andreen emailed a statement to The Crimson White at 6 p.m. stating that organizations are required to apply for a Grounds Use Permit for events held on campus.
“Unfortunately, the students who organized this event were not aware of the policy; however, they will be able to apply for a permit and hold the event at a later date,” Andreen said.
According to the UA Facilities website, there is no way for individual students to organize an assembly without being sponsored by a University department or registered student organization.
Radfar and his friends are not the first UA students to have difficulty gathering on campus. In September 2010, the University’s Environmental Council encountered confusion when trying to go through the proper Grounds Permit process. Mallory Flowers, the Council’s president at the time, told The Crimson White various University offices gave the group different answers about whether or not they needed a permit to rally against strip mining. Flowers said some offices told her there were designated free speech zones on campus, while others told her the group had to get a permit to assemble anywhere on campus.
Starting in the 1960s, public universities became common sites for public demonstrations and social activism, especially for rallies concerning the Vietnam War. During this time, according to firstamendmentcenter.org, universities began enacting speech codes to instill greater civility on public campuses.
According to firstamendmentcenter.org, university officials have argued that free speech zones are content-neutral and don’t ban student expression. They simply regulate where speech takes place and do not restrict speech content or whether it can take place at all.
The University of Alabama does not have designated free speech zones, but does require anyone wanting to hold an event, speech, rally or demonstration to acquire a permit from UA Grounds and Facilities. In 2010, Andreen said this policy was implemented in response to the increase in the size of Alabama’s student body and an increased demand for the use of UA grounds and facilities.
“We use the Ground Use Permit process to ensure that students, visitors and guests who want to hold events, speeches, rallies or demonstrations on our campus can do so without endangering the safety of our students and the campus community. We also want to ensure these events occur without disrupting the University’s ability to educate our students and conduct our daily operations,” Andreen said in the 2010 article.
However, each Grounds Use request has to be sponsored by a University Department or a certified student organization, according to the UA Facilities website. Radfar and his friends are not affiliated with any such organization.
If and when Radfar can find an organization willing to sponsor the gathering, it could take 10 days to attain the permit.
Although students believed today’s attempt would be the most sizable Harlem Shake to date, a few still plan to attend once a permit is granted.
“If I’m not expelled, I want to try again in 10 days, once we have the permit,” Radfar said.
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