July 20, 2012

Naked TSA Protester Acquitted!

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John Brennan naked Oregon TSA protest

You might remember John Brennan, the guy who stripped naked in the middle of Portland International Airport in Oregon after federal Transportation Security Agents found his hands had tested positive for nitrates. No? Here’s a recap: he refused walking through one of those odious x-ray machines and got a pat-down instead. A swab for nitrates, a common ingredient in explosives, turned up positive. When Brennan saw the agents gathering his belongings and putting on another set of gloves, he knew he was being taken to a screening room, so he saved everyone the time and stripped naked then and there.

“I’m not carrying any explosives, here you go,” he said. The agents asked him to put his clothes back on, but he told them he was within his rights to be naked and simply stood there, in protest. Shortly after, Brennan was wrapped in a towel and taken into custody.

“I am aware of the irony of removing my clothes to protect my privacy,” he testified last week.

He wasn’t wrong that he was within his legal rights, though without a protest he might not have had much luck. Portland indecent exposure law doesn’t require a sexual act or the intent to commit a sexual act — it only necessitates that a person of the opposite gender lay eyes on one’s gender bits. Multnomah County Circuit Judge David Rees agreed his actions were in protest, however, and acquitted Brennan on the charge.

“It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do,” Circuit Judge Rees said.

Unfortunately, Brennan must still face an investigation by the TSA, which is looking to fine him for disrupting the screening process (some $11,000) and put him down on the terrifying “no-fly” list.

“I have struck a nerve,” the Sacramento Bee quotes him saying. “The public doesn’t perceive the TSA as being effective. They perceive them as being expensive. At a time when we’re looking at budgets, they’re spending a lot of money and not having a lot of impact. And they’re doing it because the government is using fear and intimidation. You know, if I had kids, I’d rather see my kids getting a better education. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, ‘Education is national security.’”

Good for him. Privacy issues aside, we were curious about whether stripping in protest was legal here in L.A., so we went around the web for you. Here’s an interesting piece from Blog Downtown:

The consequences [of public nudity] only become really serious when there’s a sexual reason for being nude.

“Nude alone is not lewd. In order to be lewd conduct (PC Section 647a) there must be some indication of sexual motivation,” L.A. City Attorney’s Office spokesman Frank Mateljan said in an e-mail. There are several variables officers consider when dealing with a naked person in public.

“Does the suspect resist arrest? Is he disturbing the peace?” Mateljan said. “It is possible for an officer to arrest if these misdemeanors are committed in their presence but they could also cite and release.”

According to a city parks ordinance established in 1979: No person shall appear, bathe, sunbathe, walk or be in any public park, playground, beach or the waters adjacent thereto, in such a manner that the genitals, vulva, pubis, pubic symphysis, pubic hair, buttock, natal cleft, perineum, anus, anal region, or pubic hair region of any such person, or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any such female person, is exposed to public view or is not covered by an opaque covering.

Under the ordinance, a “park” is defined loosely, including everything from a roadside rest area, to a beach, golf course, zoological garden or playground.

So the answer is: yes, sort of.


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