Permitless Nudists Avoid Arrest

by David-Elijah Nahmod
Thursday Oct 3, 2013

A small group of urban nudists was nearly arrested during its annual nude-in last weekend after they were found not to have a permit for the event in Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro.

The September 26 nude-in, held on the eve of the Folsom Street Fair but not associated with the fetish extravaganza, was much smaller than last year's protest, which came during debate over Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposed ordinance to ban public nudity.

Five San Francisco police officers warned the estimated two-dozen nudists that they could be arrested if they didn't put their clothes on.

The nudists stated that they had applied for a permit at the Mission Police Station. The permit, however, was not issued. According to nude activist Woody Miller, who organized Saturday's event, two voicemails were left at the station. Miller said that both messages were ignored.

Neither San Francisco Police Department spokesman Officer Albie Esparza nor the desk sergeant at the Mission Station responded to the Bay Area Reporter's request for comment.

Miller claimed Wiener had given his blessing to Saturday's nude-in.

"As I remember, we were talking with Scott about the nudity ban," Miller told the B.A.R. "He told us that events like Folsom, Pride, and Bay to Breakers would be exempt [from the ban]. We specifically asked him about the nude-in, and he said yes, that would also be exempt."

Wiener denied Miller's claim.

"They did not contact me about Saturday," Wiener said. "Jane Warner Plaza is not exempt from the ordinance. I met with several of the naked guys in September or October 2012, before I introduced the public nudity legislation. The purpose of the meeting was to see if we could resolve the public nudity issue short of legislation. By the end of the meeting it became obvious that the naked guys weren't going to self-regulate, and would continue to get more extreme in their behavior, and that, unfortunately, legislation would be necessary. At no time did we discuss their nude-ins, let alone their gathering this past Saturday a full year later."

Miller confirmed that the meeting in question took place in the fall of 2012.

The public nudity ban, introduced by Wiener, was narrowly passed in late 2012 amid complaints from numerous Castro residents that nudists gathering daily at Jane Warner Plaza and walking around the neighborhood had gotten out of hand. Several businesses claimed that the nudists were driving away customers. Neighborhood parents, both gay and straight, expressed concerns about their children being exposed to the adult nudists.

Others said they saw no harm in public nudity, and were more concerned with the escalating cost of housing in the neighborhood. Still others complained that the nudists were "gross" and that they would prefer to see nudists who were more attractive.

The nudity ban took effect on February 1. The ban prohibits nudity in parks, streets, plazas, and public transit, though special events such as parades and street fairs are exempt. Violators could face arrest and fines. Five nudists, including past nude-in organizer Mitch Hightower, filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, but the ban was upheld by U.S. District Court judge Edward Chen. The nudists failed to overturn the ban on appeal.

Saturday's event proceeded peacefully and without incident after the police officers were called away to deal with a motorcycle accident at 18th and Castro, one block away from the nude-in.

Oxane "Gypsy" Taub, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the nudity ban, got a positive response to her impassioned speech, which she gave in the nude.

"Body freedom is our birthright," she said. "Just as no one has the right to force us to stop breathing, no one has the right to cover the sun and deprive us of its nourishment and its beauty, so no one has the right to deprive us of the freedom and the beauty of our own and each other's bodies. We gather today to celebrate body freedom. We gather today to celebrate freedom of choice, freedom of self-expression, to celebrate our connection to Mother Nature. We celebrate our bodies, the divine gifts given to us by the universe."

Gameli Anumu, 26, explained why he participated in the nude-in.

"I'm here because I think people should have the right to express themselves freely," he said. "I don't think that the human body is something to be ashamed of. I'd like to live in a world free from intolerance. I think that society should only criminalize acts that cause actual harm."

"The sight of the human body harms no one," added Miller.

The nude-in lasted about 20 minutes, after which the nudists and a small band of clothed supporters marched down Castro Street. A few passersby expressed support for the group.

At 18th and Castro, the police could be seen tending to the man injured in the motorcycle accident. The police and the nudists politely ignored each other at that point.

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