Stephon Ferguson was behaving like any other tourist as he walked through the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday.
Then he saw the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, and he snapped into action.
The impetus was a professional matter: Ferguson is, by trade, an MLK performer.
The Atlanta-based actor re-enacts the renowned civil rights leader’s speeches. He was in town to attend last week’s dedication ceremony events for the MLK Memorial.
Normally, Ferguson charges a fee for his performances. But his fellow tourists in the Rotunda were in for a gratis treat.
As he began the “I Have a Dream" speech, the usual chatter in the room quieted and a group gathered around him.
Ferguson performed the entire speech, and the room burst into applause when he finished.
“It was just crazy,” he says. “Surreal. I thought, ‘Is this really happening in the Capitol by [King’s] statue?’”
It wasn’t until then that he found out that what he had done warranted arrest.
D.C. law bans “breach of peace” and the crowding of passageways — both of which Ferguson did.
An officer approached Ferguson and told him that what he had done wasn’t allowed. But since his tour guide hadn’t stopped him, the police didn’t take any action.
Sources at the Capitol Police department emphasized that it wasn’t what Ferguson said that would have gotten him into trouble, but rather, the fact that his actions violated the law.
Ferguson said his tour guide, who has worked in the Capitol for several years, told him, “There was no way I could stop that.”