Tit for Tat 

Was Topless MAX Rider Lectured by Security?

IT'S AN INALIENABLE RIGHT, handed down through the generations, that if the mood should strike for reasons political or not, Portland women have a free pass to occasionally take off their tops.

For Gloria Stovall that Portland dream recently became a nightmare. The 27-year-old Portland State University student claims two male Wackenhut sercurity officers contracted by TriMet to augment its own police force harrassed her for attempting to ride MAX topless at the Rose Quarter station on a Sunday night two weeks ago.

"When I walked down the platform they said, 'Cover yourself,' and I said, 'No,'" Stovall says. "They stopped me, saying they didn't want to see my breasts and that it wasn't okay."

The alleged incident—coming a day after Portland police mostly turned a blind eye to the World Naked Bike Ride's parade of penises, vaginas, and breasts on June 13—exposes a rift between Oregon's lax public indecency laws and TriMet's apparently less liberal policy. In Oregon, indecent exposure law only prohibits nudity intended to induce arousal in public. Though Portland recently ratcheted up its own ordinance to include exposed genitalia, there is no law that bars women from baring their breasts in public spaces.

"Each woman has their own reason for going topless. For some it's about being pro-body," says Meghan Sinnott, lead organizer of this year's Naked Ride pre-party. "Either way, it's totally legal."

Though TriMet has no written rule of its own barring topless women from its buses and trains, Stovall could have been ticketed or even arrested if "her nudity caused such a commotion on the platform or MAX that it interfered with the operation of our system," according to TriMet spokesperson Bekki Witt.

Stovall denies any intent to arouse or to cause commotion on an almost-empty MAX platform on a Sunday night. Instead, Stovall says she believes the two Wackenhut security officers pulled her aside because they had another, much older, set of laws in mind.

"They were really intent on shaming me," she said. "I felt like they were morally judging me... it was intense."

A Wackenhut spokesman confirmed two officers were on duty on MAX that night, though he said they were not stationed in the Rose Quarter when the alleged incident took place. A review of TriMet surveillance footage by the Mercury placed Stovall at the scene of the alleged incident, although she wanders off camera and out of the frame for about five minutes before the next train arrived.

Stovall sticks to her story, which she says ended in tears. "What really bothers me is how close-minded they were. It was about them being right and me being wrong," she says. "I just wanted them to listen."

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