Code Pink Demonstrators Bare Breasts To Protest WarMarine Recruitment Center Protesters Raise Questions About Indecent Exposure
Monday, June 16, 2008
Category: News > City > Crime
On Friday members of Code Pink and Breasts Not Bombs bared their breasts to passing vehicles and pedestrians in front of the Marine Recruitment Center at Shattuck Square in what members said was a protest against the true indecencies in American society.
"We do not abide by your definitions of decency," said Sherry Glaser, the founder of Breasts Not Bombs, the protest group that bares their breasts against the war. "War, genocide and death are indecent."
The women carried signs and pairs of balloons on sticks that protesters said were supposed to represent breasts. After hearing a speech from Glaser, the women removed their tops and displayed their breasts.
For the duration of the protest, Berkeley police officers stood positioned around the demonstrators, surrounding the group of about 20 women and a handful of men on three sides. As soon as the women disrobed, the police ordered the women to put their clothes back on.
"Being nude in public is against the law in Berkeley. Please put your clothes back on or you will be cited," said a police officer to the protesters.
The protest resulted in one arrest, although the detained woman was fully clothed at the time she was handcuffed and taken to the Berkeley City Jail.
The demonstration is hardly the first time Berkeley police have dealt with public nudity, both in the city and on the campus. Berkeley police and UCPD reported having different policies for how their officers dealt with instances of public nudity.
On the UC Berkeley campus, public nudity has been prohibited since the early 1990s, when then-UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien enacted an anti-nudity policy in order to prohibit Andrew Martinez, known as the "Naked Guy," from walking around campus and attending class in the buff, said UCPD Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya. The city enacted its policy against nudity not long afterwards, also in response to Martinez's behavior.
Because UCPD handles a variety of instances of nudity, Celaya said police handle it on a case-by-case basis.
"All officers have discretion," Celaya said.
He said officers treat student pranks, such as streaking through the library during finals or down Fraternity Row, and sexual deviancy, such as masturbation in public, differently.
"(We arrest for) something that crosses the line," Celaya said. "(Officers) know it when they see it."
He said that officers understand that college students sometimes pull pranks that involve nudity.
"These are things that are part of college life," Celaya said. "I think we have to take it for what it is."
Despite this, he said that neither the university nor UCPD condones nudity as a prank and that UCPD has the right to refer cases of student nudity to Student Judicial Affairs or to the Alameda County District Attorney.
Berkeley police reported a more rigid policy concerning public nudity.
Berkeley police Officer Andrew Frankel said that indecent exposure means exposing the breasts for women and the genitals for both genders. Since it is illegal in Berkeley, those who practice it for whatever reason can be cited by police and arrested if they continue to expose themselves, Frankel said.
"Indecent exposure is prohibited by state law," Frankel said.
Despite this policy, Breasts Not Bombs protesters still said they think their method of expression is effective in communicating their message.
Breasts are "nurturing, soft, vulnerable-those things that war is not," said Code Pink member Pamela Bennett said. "It's a symbol of peace."
Jacqueline Johnston is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected]
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