Tuesday, July 17, 2007

WNBR: Seattle police arrest naked bike riders

City's tolerance changing, cyclists say


It's not easy being nude or painted in tiger stripes if you're a Seattle cyclist-protester.

Three of the 57 participants in the Seattle Naked Bike Ride -- including one stripped, stripy Oak Harbor woman -- were arrested Saturday as they streaked into Seward Park.

The bare bicyclists were released from Seattle police custody hours later after being cited for indecent exposure, a misdemeanor. But festival organizers say the arrests may mark a change in the city's usual tolerance of bipedal nakedness.

"Seattle has never had a problem with this ride," said Daniel Johnson, who's been organizing the event since 2003. "This is what happens when there's a communication failure."

Johnson said he believes the arrests were made in part because the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department is trying to discourage events that include nudity, a charge the department denies.

Like similar events around the world, the Seattle naked ride is aimed at raising awareness of how "exposed" people are to pollution, Johnson said. He said the naked riders also draw attention to bicycling and the beauty of the human body.

Organizers of the bike ride -- a daylong event beginning in Fairview Park and circling through much of the city before returning to the starting point -- received a permit for use of Fairview Park. But Johnson said parks officials told him he didn't need permits to use the Seattle Center or the seven other public parks riders traveled through.

"That surprised me, because they knew we probably wouldn't be wearing clothes," Johnson said.

Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Dewey Potter said the department has not changed its stance on public nudity.

Under Washington law, Potter said, a person can be naked in public as long as no one is offended. The parks department doesn't issue permits for nakedness, but it doesn't necessarily bar it, either.

"In the state of Washington, it's not illegal to be nude, per se," Potter said. "What's illegal is to provoke someone or upset them in some way."

During Saturday's ride, police received complaints from several people, including a 12-year-old girl, who'd seen the stream of brightly painted bodies rolling through Seattle streets and trails, according to police statements.

An officer first contacted the naked riders just before the ride began at Fairview Park after receiving a report of a naked man walking on Fairview Avenue. In a report, the officer said the riders were told arrests would be made if more complaints were received.

Marte Kinder, an Australian who's participated in naked rides around the world, said riders are usually well received.

Riding through Seattle Saturday, riders were usually met with support, Kinder said.

"It cheers people up," Kinder said. "We're not one of the events that marches down the street and has something negative to talk about."

Johnson said he expects to host another naked ride next July.

P-I reporter Levi Pulkkinen can be reached at 206-448-8348 or levipulkkinen@seattlepi.com.

Okay . . . I had to post a comment with the newspaper on this one . . .

"Under Washington law, Potter said, a person can be naked in public as long as no one is offended. "

The Seattle Municipal Code do not prohibit nudity so I assume the arrests were made under RCW 9A.88.010 - Indecent Exposure. However, to make the charge of Indecent Exposure under Washington law the police need to show all four elements of indecent exposure under the code. The offender has to knowingly and intentionally make an open and obscene exposure that causes affront or alarm.

RCW 9A.88.010 Indecent exposure.

(1) A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure.

RCW 9A.88.010

What makes exposure indecent or obscene has been very strictly interpreted by the Miller Test of the Supreme Court. Mere simple nudity (absent any sexual or erotic element) has been repeatedly determined not to be obscene.

You cannot make all the charging elements for Indecent Exposure based simply on someone being 'affronted' or 'alarmed'. The code requires an obscene exposure . . . which MUST pass the Supreme Court's Miller Test. Simple nudity does not meet this charging requirement and perhaps the Seattle Police Department needs to be reminded of the law. Rick

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