Free Speech

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
free speech, nudity, protest, search, tsa

Apparently Stripping Nude To Protest TSA Search Is Protected By The First Amendment

from the in-oregon-at-least dept

A few months ago, you may have heard about John Brennan, who was going through Portland International Airport, and felt that the TSA screening procedures were the equivalent of harassing him. In response, to protest, he stripped naked... and was promptly arrested for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure. However, a court has now acquitted Brennan by saying that the stripping was an act of public protest, and thus protected by the First Amendment. The judge pointed out that there's already state precedent in Oregon that anti-nudity laws "do not apply in cases of protest."
"It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do," Circuit Judge David Rees said.
The DA who prosecuted the case is complaining that now anyone arrested for indecent exposure can just claim that it's a protest.
Deputy District Attorney Joel Petersen argued that Brennan only spoke of a protest minutes later. Petersen urged the judge to recognize that distinction, "otherwise any other person who is ever naked will be able to state after the fact" that it was done in protest.
Of course, this now raises the troubling (or appealing, depending on your nature) idea that stripping at the front of the TSA line may become more popular. That said, if you're now... er... itching to disrobe in front of the TSA, it's worth noting that this ruling is specific to Oregon, and who knows how other states might deal with the same issue.

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  1. identicon
    MrWilson, 19 Jul 2012 @ 12:52pm

    "The DA who prosecuted the case is complaining that now anyone arrested for indecent exposure can just claim that it's a protest."

    That's silly. Brennan stripped during what many Americans feel is an insulting and degrading security theater spectacle. If someone is just randomly running around naked and gets arrested for indecent exposure, what treatment prior to them stripping could they point at to say they were protesting? Brennan had a reasonable context for his claim of protest. Other such accused people might not depending on their circumstances.

    The DA just doesn't want legitimate protesters (even spontaneous ones) from being able to fight charges meant to keep the airport chattel in line.

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