A security guard halted a middle school choir that had almost finished singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 9/11 memorial in New York late last week because nobody paid a $35 fee to perform at the site.
Sounds un-American, right? Well, it’s completely true (and stop being so naive; it sounds completely American). The whole thing was captured in a video that caught fire on Facebook, with many outraged that a harmless display of patriotism by kids would provoke an authoritarian shutdown.
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The choir students were from a middle school in Waynesville, North Carolina, and the conductor, Martha Brown, said one of the site’s security guards had given the group permission to sing. But another security guard stopped the students in the middle of the national anthem because what they were doing could be considered a public demonstration. And in order to do that, you’ve got to pay the man.
“Lots of people gathered around to listen and we thought the security guard who stopped us, we thought he was coming… so he could hear better,” Brown told CBS New York. “I can’t remember his exact words, but he did use the terminology, ‘This could be defined as a public demonstration, you’re going to have to stop unless you have a license, and I don’t see you on a list for today.'”
A memorial spokesperson later said the situation had been mishandled and that the choir had been invited back for another performance.
All of which is to remind us of this inalienable fact: if you’re going to honor the 3,000 people who died during 9/11 while singing the most patriotic of songs, you’d damn well better pay up first.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.