John Brennan, the Portland man who made national headlines when he stripped naked in Portland International Airport to protest the TSA screening process, got good news yesterday. Judge David Rees found Brennan not guilty of indecent exposure, a charge stemming from his unclothed act of civil disobedience.
"Believing that one or more people from TSA were about to see him naked anyway, and wanting to speed the process up, John removed his clothes both to highlight the irony and as a symbolic act of protest," according to a press release announcing the not-guilty verdict. "He stated to TSA that he was not carrying explosives."
"Our civil rights are being eroded slowly, and TSA is one of the ways that's happening," Brennan told Seattle Weekly in April. "I knew that I could use the power of being naked to bring visibility to that issue."
Apparently airport police didn't see the nobility of the cause. Brennan was quickly arrested and charged in Multnomah County with indecent exposure, a misdemeanor. Police arrested him for disorderly conduct, but prosecutors declined to press that charge. Originally, Brennan asked for a jury trial, a request that was denied by a judge.
Yesterday, as mentioned, even without a jury trial, Brennan was able to put the indecent exposure charge behind him.
According to Brennan's press release:
The indecent exposure ordinance states: "It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex." However, a prior Oregon Court of Appeals decision effectively limits the ordinance to prohibit only public nudity that is *not intended as a protected symbolic or communicative act.* Judge Rees deemed Mr. Brennan's act as protest, and therefore, protected speech.
Brennan's press release also says TSA is currently investigating the incident as, "an alleged violation of f Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § Part 1540, Section 109, which is interfering with the screening process." According to Brennan's release, he's looking forward to putting that behind him as well.
I've put a call into Brennan this morning and will update The Daily Weekly with his comments once we connect.