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Judge throws out charges in naked biking case, says it’s a “well-established tradition” in Portland

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 12th, 2008 at 8:23 pm

More Naked Ride photos
Riding naked is a "well-established
tradition".
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Oregonian reports that a Multnomah County Judge has thrown out indecent exposure charges in a naked biking case because he feels that it's a, "'well-established tradition' in Portland and understood as a form of 'symbolic protest.'"

Here's a snip from the Oregonian's story:

Judge Jerome LaBarre said the city's annual World Naked Bike Ride -- in which as many as 1,200 people cycled through Northwest and downtown Portland this past June -- has helped cement riding in the buff as a form of protest against cars and possibly even the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

The naked biker in this case was Bobby Hammond. According to the story, he took off his clothes and rode his bike down NE Alberta Street on June 26 in order to "make clear that nothing was powering his mode of transportation but his own unadulterated body."

Story continues below

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The streaking session caught the eye of the cops and Hammond was arrested (the arrest was caught on tape -- see below).

The cops said city code forbids exposure of genitalia in public. The deputy district attorney working the case, Ryan Lufkin, worried that if the judge threw out the case it would give anyone whose ever been charged with indecent exposure the ability to argue that they were simply expressing free speech.

Judge Jerome LaBarre felt Hammond's case qualified as free speech.

I'm not sure who I love more in this story, Hammond or Judge LaBarre.

Read the full story in The Oregonian.

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Comments
  • Mark Allyn November 12, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    It may be legal, but in this rain? Brrrr!

    Me? I'm naked only under the electric blanket tonight!!!

    Mark

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  • Joe November 12, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Cops are so ridiculous.. This is all they had to do that night? Right..

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  • tonyt November 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Terrorists!

    They hate us for our clothes.

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  • girl-shawn November 12, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Good job to the camerawoman: she was clear about her intentions and held the police accountable for their actions.

    I know that the OR constitution says that it's legal to be naked in public, as long as there's no sexual intention. I've also heard that there's a PDX ordinance (as the officer said) that prohibits people from exposing their genitalia, although upholding this ordinance would necessitate a re-examination of the OR constitution. Of course, I could be totally wrong, though. Can one of the legal wonks who read this blog tell us some more background on the subject?

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  • tom .gabe.'s roommate November 13, 2008 at 1:15 am

    yea. I watched this incident go down. it was hillarious and cruel on the energized streets of Alberta. Officers standing around looking for ways to enforce the peace or maybe just ways to fit in? Everybody wants to fit in and have something productive to do. The boys and girls club was established in 1968 to do just that. I'm far from ready to contribute to a boys and girls club so the Portland Police can shoot pool during thursday but surely something must be done to halt the frivolous tickets and mass bicycle light stings during the once a month festival.

    oh yea, high to the cute young lady who cried out, 'I love you bobby' as her naked boyfriend was driven west on Alberta. i was the guy on the south side of the road with a chunk of urbanite in my right hand.

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  • Loren November 13, 2008 at 1:59 am

    It's time we send oregon police officers back to school, and maybe subject them to a more demanding psych eval.

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  • Matthew Denton November 13, 2008 at 7:08 am

    "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."
    -Mark Twain

    It looks like he was wrong...

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  • Joe November 13, 2008 at 7:26 am

    hard to watch the stream, cops these days
    worry me, instead of protect us i feel!

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  • Oliver November 13, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Naked protest determined by judge to be "traditional" value in Portland.

    With the lousy weather of the last few weeks I admit I needed a reminder of why I love this city.

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  • E November 13, 2008 at 7:55 am

    :D awesome!

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  • a.O November 13, 2008 at 8:23 am

    The real question here is why Ryan Lufkin and the PPB are *wasting* precious public resources on such frivolous matters.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 13, 2008 at 9:15 am

    By the way, I just got off the phone with All Things Considered, the NPR radio show. They're trying to track down Mr. Hammond for an interview that will air nationally tonight.

    if anyone knows how to get in touch with him, feel free to drop me a line jonathan at bikeportland dot org.

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  • Ben November 13, 2008 at 10:22 am

    First off, riding a bike over driving a car is definitely a the direction that hopefully more people will transition to. And the World Naked Bike Ride is a fun and incredible event, celebrated across the globe for its solidarity and demonstration.

    However, I may be the only person in this forum to say so, but until city code changes regarding indecent exposure, Hammond's offense was unfortunately a crime and charges should not have been dropped. See city code 14A.40.030, in which case Hammond clearly broke the law.

    I would say this group-myself included-should look at pooling funds to hire legal counsel, who would work to repeal this city code, or at least modify it to protect a broader aspect of "symbolic protest[s]" such as our WNBR. Unfortunately, with the city code as it's currently written, anyone participating in the WNBR could be arrested also. Whether charges would be cleared by a judge would be strickly at the mercy of a court's interpretation. And that is a dangerous position for any democratic process.

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  • Todd B November 13, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Hey Jonathan - is that you in the photo?

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  • Eric November 13, 2008 at 11:16 am

    They're out to get the nudists in Seattle, also.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/387599_naked13.html

    I think it's a great sign that all the other problems are solved and the police can now concentrate on this!

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  • velo November 13, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Sweet! That judge rocks. I like the notion that naked bicycling is symbolic speech.

    Now I just want the Portland Police to stop wasting their money and this sort of "enforcement". Perhaps you could arrest those who actually commit real crimes or are a threat to public safety. There needs to be a reassertion of control of the police. The police are civil servants. They work for us - we are the citizens who give the government its power and legitimacy.

    A few naked bottoms hardly constitute a threat to public safety.

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  • wsbob November 13, 2008 at 11:33 am

    14A.40.030, the Portland city code Ben refers to:

    "It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place or place visible from a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex.

    In making his decision here, Judge LaBarre cited a 1985 Oregon Court of Appeals decision:

    "In 1985, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in City of Portland v. Gatewood that appearing nude in public can be a protected form of expression -- such as if it's done in political protest -- and should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    LaBarre said Hammond's case qualified as protected expression." from the O article

    Is there some reason that at some time during the last 23 years, the city hasn't written this provision into its code?

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  • a.O November 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    "Is there some reason that at some time during the last 23 years, the city hasn't written this provision into its code?"

    Good question. A better question, IMHO, is why Ryan Lufkin and the PPB are spending the public's resources enforcing a provision of the City Code that has been known for some time to be unlikely to be enforceable. It's either incompetence or pursuit of a political agenda -- you decide.

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  • Paul Tay November 13, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Sure, Da Man says we got rights in America. What he don't tell ya: Ya gotta FIGHT to keep it.

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  • matt picio November 13, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Mark (#1) - agreed, but in this case, the ride in question was June 26th - a bit warmer and a lot less rain.

    Ben (#14) - I think that the article (and case law) make it clear that Hammond did not break the law. Portland City Code 14A.40.030 does not trump the Oregon Constitution. As for WNBR being a matter of interpretation, WNBR is clearly a protest (and labelled and marketed as such in numerous public forums), and since it's been 5+ years ongoing without any nudity-related arrests (someone correct me on that if I'm wrong) and since there is already extant case law in regards to this form of protest, it's highly unlikely that the courts are going to find a WNBR participant guilty of violating the city code.

    As for "the mercy of a court's interpretation" being a dangerous position for a democratic process - well, back when the US truly WAS a democratic republic (we've never been a true democracy), courtroom interpretation was 90% of the law - decisions varied according to context. I actually think that today's voluminous, no-one-can-possibly-know-all-the-law system is a big step backwards - and our "democracy" or the illusion of it doesn't seem to be able to change that fact and re-simplify the law. You and I are held personally responsible for knowing and obeying hundreds of thousands of pages of laws, under penalty of fine and/or imprisonment. Can you honestly say you know them all? Can you honestly say that the current system is more fair or more equitable than a system involving a couple hundred pages of law and the case-by-case interpretation of a judge? (preferrably a judge elected on a neighborhood level to serve a neighborhood - where the judge would be able to personally know his constituents)

    velo (#17) - Amen. Prosecuting nudity in any form is ridiculous - how can anyone seriously consider a nude human to be a credible threat? (the exception being a violent martial-artist on drugs, I would guess) Nudity is the very essence of vulnerability, and the laws prohibiting it are simply to keep others from being offended or "exposed" to it. Well, guess what people - you have no right to not be offended. If we had such a right, traffic congestion would be illegal. (so would mimes)

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson November 13, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    I would like to point out that after years of trying to make "last Thursday" a carfree event his protest was shortly before it actually happened, and widely publicized. I think we should have more naked protests.

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  • Ben November 13, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I've seen/heard this argument that the Oregon Constitution somehow protects public nudity, but have searched thoroughly througout all sections and articles and found no reference to nudity, obscenity, indecency...nothing. And if people are trying to point to Article 1, Section 8 for validity, that is absolutely a stretch of interpretation. I would agree that the constitution would trump city code, however since it is not a specifically protected form of expression, and the city code clearly prohibits the act, that becomes a weak position to hold.

    I agree that it's unlikely anyone would be arrested during WBNR, at least not for public exposure. Logistically that's simply not something the PD could accomplish. My point though is that it is still in clear opposition to the city code. As the appeals court ruled in 1985, and Judge LaBarre reaffirmed and extended, appearing nude in public protest is an acceptable form of expression. But LaBarre is using an appeals court precedent to validate her decision, and an appeals court is definitely NOT a "neighborhood level" judge. Indeed most appeals court judges are not even elected, so they are not held directly accountable for their decisions and opinions.

    My overall point is that the law should reflect the needs and wishes of those for whom it is written. wsbob brought up the point, why hasn't it been changed in 23 years? Probably because A) there is not enough popular support for the change; B) those supporting the change have not been vocal enough to their commissioners/council members/legislators; or C) it was an APPEALS court, which means there was a general disagreement in interpreting the letter and spirit of the law. OR, all of the above of course.

    I understand that no one in the WNBR, or Hammond, tries to offend people (i.e. children, elderly, Christians, Republicans), but the distinction of intent and purpose of the act cannot override the effect of the act itself. For example, if a pedophile stands in front of a school and exposes him/herself to a child, I seriously doubt that child would understand the difference in intent between that and Hammond.

    Final point, I've been a biker and limited driver for years, decades actually, and would LOVE To get more people excited and involved in reducing our impact. But what does riding naked have to do with that? Shock-value? What about just spreading the word, or supporting additional gas taxes, higher levees on poor fuel-economy vehicles, etc. Riding a bike in the buff? I'm just afraid that might do more harm to the "movement" than good.

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  • pdxhawthorne November 13, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Did anyone hear this guy on NPR? Can we please get a better spokesman? He made Sarah Palin sound coherent and open-minded, when he told anyone who doesn't agree with his going naked to "stay out of my neighborhood."

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  • wsbob November 13, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Are police officers only obliged to carry out enforcement of crimes and misdemeanors defined by their own city's code?

    At 10:30pm on Alberta St Last Thursday, what did the police see that caused them to take action? A guy, naked except for a helmet and, I think, a pair of shoes. What was he doing, or preparing to do? Ride a bike.

    Why was he choosing to do this? I'm wondering if the cops asked themselves this question as they approached Bobby Hammond, because if their enforcement responsibilities include considering the provision of laws beyond the limits of their own city, it certainly seems as if they should have asked themselves that question. If they did, the decision in City of Portland v. Gatewood should have entered into their own decisions that night.

    We can't (or at least, I can't) hear all the dialogue on the vid, nor did I have the opportunity to sit in on the trial. That would have been fascinating, I'll bet. I would really like to have heard the officers explanation in court as to the compelling reason they felt they had for arresting naked on a bike Bobby Hammond.

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  • Ethan November 13, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Not the PPD's finest moment

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  • jim November 14, 2008 at 12:12 am

    I don't see a headlight on that bike. He should have ben pegged for that.

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  • jim November 14, 2008 at 12:16 am

    I think they should through the judge out

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  • Paul November 14, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Here's the NPR link:

    http://tinyurl.com/6p9rlr

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  • Paul Tay November 14, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    PdxHawthorne, #24, hey, if ya want a better spokesman, YOU get NEKKID. He did just fine.

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  • Ben November 14, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    That interview was TERRIBLE. The comment above from pdxhawthorne was spot-on. "Stay out of my neighborhood"?! Are you KIDDING?! This guy is a complete moron and giving a legitimate movement a horrible name.

    He did just fine if we were all as simple-minded, feeble and self-righteous as he made himself out to be.

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  • Captain Cupcake November 15, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I agree with girl-shawn and I think the real props go to the camera woman, not only did she hold the officers accountable and to the rules but she kept her cool and resisted the under-lying provocations in their refusal to provide her with i.d. and empty threats to arrest her. She was non-combative (for the most part) and calm, both of which are important in getting things resolved.

    3 cars for one naked cyclist, wow.

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  • Kernal Loose Nut November 16, 2008 at 8:51 am

    #24 and #30

    i also heard the the npr report and the Bobby was clearly not ready for prime time. "If people don't want to see me naked, they should stay out of my neighborhood."

    Brilliant, eah?

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  • Kernal Loose Nut November 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

    i am all for naked biking and i am overjoyed at the judges decision. But Bobby was breaking the city code as it is written and from the video it appears to me that he was resisting arrest. He's lucky all he got was thrown to the street. It also seems that the cops were very patient in the face of all the sidewalk heckling they were getting for rightfully enforcing city code. Compared to cop behavior i've seen at other times/places i think the cops did a commendable job.

    i'd like to see the city code repealed and would be willing to risk arrest by riding naked to achieve that goal. But there's power in numbers and if we want to change the law we should organize a monthly ride or something.
    This last summer i rode naked for over an hour, during the day, with sixty or so other brave souls and the cops left us completely alone. That ride and the WNBR that night really helped build the "tradition" that Judge LaBarre cited.

    It's up to us to keep the tradition alive. Let's organize and overturn this fear-based city code. How about a Thanksgiving Day ride?

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  • jim November 16, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Do you supose that judge is naked under his robe?

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  • Eileen November 16, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Hmmm... not sure how I feel about this. I'd like to think I could walk around Portland with my kids and not have to take them to therapy after. I agree with the policeman's take - breasts okay, penises not. Seeing a grown man's penis is a lot for a little girl to handle. I actually think that cop was being pretty patient with the woman in the video about the whole card thing. I kind of wanted to slap her. I don't have a problem with the naked bike ride, but my feeling is that the whole idea of streaking is that you're doing it so fast no one can really see much. If you're stopping, getting off the bike, walking around, it becomes a naked parade and that's not so cool. Maybe I'm a prude.

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  • Eileen November 16, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    One more thing...

    Why is it that when the police are enforcing a city ordinance and they work for the city, they are being random enforcers. Obviously they are going to enforce the city ordinance until it is overturned in the supreme court - that's the way it works. But when this gal won't let the cop giver his number without giving her an official card, she is within her rights? It seems to me that she is the one who was being unreasonable in this instance.

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  • kww November 17, 2008 at 1:59 am

    damn the clothing cabal! what lengths will they stretch to demonize entitlement babies?

    Curse them all!

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  • Eileen November 17, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    So Jonathan, you think it should be legal to run around Portland naked but you censored my post because I used the correct anatomical term for a man's genitalia?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 17, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    "So Jonathan, you think it should be legal to run around Portland naked but you censored my post because.."

    hi Eileen,

    i didn't censor your comment.. it was caught up mistakenly in my spam filter.

    i have pushed it through.

    thanks.

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  • algebra November 21, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I thought it was incredibly sexy and arousing, and therefore, unlawful.

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  • Mark March 9, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Hey Eileen (#36), if you don't want to take your kids to therapy for seeing a naked body, then teach them that their bodies are beautiful, not shameful. I'm so sick of the attitude that the world should be sanitized for our "protection."

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  • robot trot June 8, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    i agree with mark! way to put it.
    eileen, you are prude. but its not your fault. we've all been brain-washed. but there's something you can do to fix it. get naked! i know i do;)

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