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Naked bike ride brings up free speech issues

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Photo from 'carlosfpardo' via Flickr

A naked bike ride, organized by 20 year old Sarah Bush, is scheduled to occur on June 12 at 5PM—whether or not nudity is allowed.

San Diego’s World Naked Bike Ride is one of more than 25 naked bike rides scheduled around the world on June 12. The 10 mile ride is meant to protest oil dependency, promote car-free lifestyles and encourage people to feel at home in their bare skin. The ride begins at Evolution Fast Food in Hillcrest, and will venture to downtown and back.

However, there is one thing that stands in the way of this au naturel protest—San Diego’s anti-nudity ordinance, which doesn’t protect people’s right to engage in free speech while being naked in public.

Attorney Mitch Wallis, who is helping Sarah Bush support her cause, is filing a request for an injunction on behalf of Bush. They claim that the anti-nudity ordinance violates their First Amendment rights. According to Voice of San Diego, Wallis writes in a draft of his legal brief, “The proposed naked bicycle ride is a peaceful, law-abiding protest replete with artistic and political values and delivers a powerful message which is much needed at this time.”

But don’t shed your clothes just yet—the city remains firm on the subject of nudity. Gina Coburn, spokeswoman for the City Attorney’s Office, tells Voice of San Diego that “the city’s position is that the law will be enforced. The law does not prohibit bike riding. It does prohibit public nudity.”

“If someone is there and is nude, we will take appropriate enforcement action, “ said assistant chief of the San Diego Police Department, Boyd Long.

Females that expose their breasts “at or below the areola” and those that show genitalia will be violating the law, and could face misdemeanor charges, including a $500 fine, six months in jail, or both.

However, despite the city’s anti-nudity ordinance, more than 100 people plan to attend San Diego’s World Naked Bike Ride (via Facebook), reports Channel 10 News.

Those that wish to participate in the bike ride but aren’t looking to risk jail time are still encouraged to join, even if they’re wearing clothes.

So if you’ve got the guts, come ride with or without clothes. But please be informed of the possible consequences should you choose to ride nude.

For more on the story, visit voiceofsandiego.org/government.

Photo from ‘carlosfpardo’ via Flickr

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