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Monday, February 3, 2014

Nudity Ban Protest Takes An Unexpectedly Violent Turn

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 5:52 PM

click to enlarge INTI GONZALEZ
  • Inti Gonzalez

On Saturday, self-described Body Freedom activists gathered inside Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market to commemorate, and protest against, the 1-year anniversary of San Francisco's public nudity ban.

But the typically peaceful "nude-ins" took an unexpected turn when a cop wrestled a nudist to the ground after refusing to sign a citation officers issued him.

Introduced by openly gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener in 2012, the public nudity ban is meant to clothe the growing tide of nudists who were making it a common occurrence to walk around the neighborhood in the buff.

Neighborhood residents have been sharply divided on this issue. Many have stated that they have no problem with naked people in public and were more concerned with the rising cost of housing in the neighborhoods. But just as many -- if not more -- expressed relief when the ban was passed.

Saturday's Nude-In was quiet and peaceful -- at first.

George Davis, a plaintiff in the recent lawsuit which attempted to overturn the ban, took to the podium. As he removed the large, rainbow-covered sock which covered his penis, Davis shouted the word "cocksucker!" Davis was arrested at the Nude-in before SF Weekly could speak to him. He did not respond to an email requesting comment.

As the Nude-In continued, longtime nude activist Rusty Mills took to the podium. As he began to speak, an officer gave the nudists a five-minute warning to get dressed or get out.

A moment later, Mill's speech was interrupted by cries coming from nudist Gameli Anumu.

Anumu, already on the ground, was wailing in pain as several officers held him down and handcuffed him. As Anumu was taken to the paddy wagon, numerous attendees shouted accusations of police brutality. Gypsy Taub and Davis were also cuffed and arrested, without incident.

Anumu later told SF Weekly that he had kept a black censor card in front of his crotch area for most of the rally in order to remain in compliance with the code. He uncovered himself only as the other protesters did. Anumu admits that he had refused to sign a citation given to him by the officer.

"They didn't announce that the five minutes were up," he said. "The officer grabbed my arm and told me that I was now in violation. I immediately covered myself back up. He had already started dragging me towards police vehicles when he asked if I was going to sign a citation. I am not at all used to having physical force used on me. I said "no" in disbelief. I was thrown to the ground and roughly handcuffed and ziptied."

click to enlarge INTI GONZALEZ
  • Inti Gonzalez
We later contacted SFPD to get their side of the story.

"Signing a citation is not an admission of guilt," said SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza. "It means that you agree to appear before a magistrate. "My understanding is that the person cited for resisting arrest tried to move away from the officers. You must obey a police officer's order whether you believe the order is right or not."

Esparza said that force was considered a last resort, which many police officers try to avoid. "Penal Code 835 says officers may use reasonable force when there is resistance," he said.

Many attendees at the protest felt that excessive force was used. Anumu, they said, could have been held back without being wrestled to the ground.

"He was standing next to me," said Oakland resident Kelsey Beyer. "They asked him to sign the citation. He said that he was wearing something.They threw him down. He was screaming, obviously in pain, and bleeding. This was obviously meant to intimidate everyone."

Anumu feels no animosity towards the officer who initiated his arrest and spoke very kindly of a transport officer he encountered afterward. "He recognized me from previous arrests. He made conversation. He didn't treat me like a violent criminal. He did his best to explain what was happening and what to expect. He told the officers he passed me along to not to worry about me and to keep me safe. I cried when I thanked him for being so nice to me."

The nudists vow to continue defying the nudity ban until it is repealed.

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