Portland is buffing its image as Naked City USA with the latest nudity case to grab national headlines.
Already, Oregon’s most populous city is home to one of the largest annual World Naked Bike Rides on the planet, with as many as 10,000 free-wheeling souls participating this past June.
Then there was the 21-year-old Portland man who was so inspired by the car-free movement in 2008 that he rode his bike in protest through the Alberta Arts District sans clothes. Portland police took him to the ground and booked him into jail, only to have a judge gain national attention by throwing out the case.
Perhaps it’s natural then that a Multnomah County judge Wednesday acquitted 50-year-old John E. Brennan of an indecent exposure charge after he stripped naked at Portland International Airport.
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.
Brennan famously shed all his clothes April 17 at an airport security checkpoint. It was 5:30 p.m. and gawkers didn’t hesitate to take smart phone photos and offer them up to the media as Brennan stood for about five minutes before police arrived.
During a two-hour trial, Brennan testified that he undressed because he was fed up with what he sees as invasive Transportation Security Administration procedures — including body scans and pat downs.
Prosecutors charged Brennan with violating a city ordinance that forbids people from exposing their genitalia in public and in the presence of the opposite sex.
The judge sided with the defense, which cited a 1985 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling stating that nudity laws don’t apply in cases of protest.
“It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do,” Circuit Judge David Rees said.
Once again, the news quickly spread far and wide: USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and CNN were among websites featuring the story in their feeds.