Saturday, September 20, 2008
Body Freedom March
Today at 2:00 I meet up with four or five like-minded men to stage a naked body-freedom stroll through the Castro. We had on hand a video documentarian, as one of our group is hoping to produce a spot for public access television. We began undressing near the 33 Muni stop at what once was known as Hibernia Beach (B of A Beach?), across the street from Starbears, where we garnered quite a few bear stares. We proceeded down 18th St. to Hartford. Moby Dick's looked like it might capsize from the sudden rush of men towards the plate glass window to witness our parade. No sooner had we crossed to the other side of 18th St. when a police cruiser appeared, swooping in on us and pulling to a stop on the corner across the cross walk. The police officer informed us we would have to stop and get dressed as he had had a complaint. All of us complied except for our organizer, George Davis, naked yoga guy and mayoral candidate, who walked over to speak to the officer. The officer told George if he did not get dressed he would be arrested. George did not respond. The officer asked George if he should consider that a refusal to obey orders. Again silence from George. The officer told George that if he got dressed he would issue a citation, but if George did not have valid ID on him, he would have to arrest him. George told the officer that he had been issued citations before and they had always been dismissed as simple nudity was not illegal in San Francisco. The officer than proceeded to call for a wagon and took George's ID. Meanwhile our videographer was filming the proceedings. At this point George, having made his point, decided to put his pants on. The officer than told us he understood our stance, and our right to free speech, but with that right, he explained, comes the responsibility to not break the law while expressing it. We explained that we were not breaking the law, that simple nudity was not illegal in San Francisco. The officer responded that he had received a complaint, so we were breaking the law. George asked him to produce the complaint. The officer admitted he did not have it in writing, and therefore could not arrest us. By this time the patty wagon had arrived. The officer informed us that we were free to go, but if he had to return because we continued with our naked stroll, we would be arrested. George expressed that he intended to file a harassment complaint with the Office of Citizen's Complaints, which he has done each time in the past when he has been hassled or falsely arrested by the police. At this point the officer asked to speak to another member of our group in private. After the police left, that member told us the officer was afraid that George was going to claim he had tried to hit George. He said he had reassured the officer that George would not lie, but would only state what had happened.
So even though there is no law forbidding an act, one may still be kept from freely engaging in that act when it is perceived as being illegal by the public or by the police. The fear then becomes if one wants to engage in said act, will there then be an effort to make it illegal? Many nudists believe this is a sufficient argument why we should not be naked in public. This is the carceral state at its finest, self-policing at its most efficient.
Photos courtesy of Cailfornia Showboy.