Constitutional Law

Oregon Biker Beats Rap for Naked Ride; 'Symbolic Protest' is Protected, Judge Says


Because an annual World Naked Bike Ride in Portland, Ore., has created a tradition of protesting in this manner, a Multnomah County judge has dismissed an indecent exposure case against a man who tried the stunt on his own a few weeks later over the summer.

In 1985, the Oregon Court of Appeals held in City of Portland v. Gatewood that public nudity, while prohibited by law for sexual gratification, can nonetheless be a protected form of free expression and hence its legality must be determined based on the facts of each individual case, explains the Oregonian. So Judge Jerome LaBarre held two days of hearings before dismissing the criminal case against Michael “Bobby” Hammond, 21, finding that he let it all hang out as a “symbolic protest.”

Pulled over because of his nudity, “I just want to ride my bike,” Hammond told police at the time, as a bystander recorded in a video. “I’m wearing a helmet.”

He testified that he had ridden his bike naked as a protest of excessive gasoline consumption and the Iraq war, among other issues.

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin argued that Hammond has pointed the way for virtually anyone charged in an indecent exposure case to beat the rap with a similar claim that he or she was making a protected political protest.

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