Transportation
4:28 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Court Rules Portland's Naked Traveler Is Protected By Law

Originally published on Thu July 19, 2012 1:29 pm

A man who stripped naked to protest security screenings at the Portland International Airport was exercising his right to free speech, a court ruled Wednesday.

John Brennan was charged with indecent exposure after the incident, but Brennan said he stripped only after he refused to walk through a scanner and security agents found traces of nitrates on his clothes.

Here's how he described the incident to KVAL:

"'For me, time slowed down,' Brennan said. 'I thought about nitrates and I thought about the Oklahoma City bombing.'

"Brennan said before his trial that after months of angst every time he went through security, the nitrate detection was the final straw for him, a wordless accusation that he was a terrorist. So he took off all his clothes.

"'I was mostly motivated by the absurdity of it all. The irony that they want to see me naked, but I don't get to take off my clothes off,' he said. 'You have all these machines that pretend to do it.'"

The Oregonian reports that after a two-hour trial, a judge decided that by charging him with indecent exposure, the government was trying to punish his speech and the state cannot do that.

Prosecutors argued that if the judge ruled in Brennan's favor anyone who is caught nude in public could say they were just protesting. Brennan, they said, came up with the protesting angle until after he was naked.

The judge didn't buy the argument. The Oregonian reports on the scene after the judge handed down his decision:

"Brennan's friends packed into the courtroom and erupted in applause and cheers upon hearing the verdict. As they filed into the hallway, they heartily embraced a smiling Brennan.

"One friend stuck a sticky note on Brennan's chest. It read: 'Sir Godiva' — a reference to the legend of a noblewoman who rode naked on a horse through the streets of England to protest oppressive taxation."

If you're really interested, KGW has surveillance video of the incident. Of course, it contains nudity.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.