Before Michael Hammond was arrested for riding his bike naked on NE Alberta during June's Last Thursday festival, he was making a statement about "air pollution, crowded streets, having been hit by cars... the war in Iraq, the old way of thinking, living in a capitalist police state, oil consumption, and anything that doesn't support the human body."
At least, those are some of the reasons 21-year-old Hammond gave Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin on Monday, November 10, defending himself against a charge of indecent exposure.
Lufkin had already declined to prosecute Hammond on assault and resisting arrest charges, and offered him 24 hours community service in exchange for dismissing the indecency charge, but Hammond was insistent about his right to ride naked up the street at 10:30 that night.
In Oregon, indecent exposure only covers the intent to induce arousal in public, but Hammond claims he did not know about the City of Portland's stricter indecent exposure ordinance, which makes it illegal to expose one's genitalia "in view of a public place open and available to persons of the opposite sex."
Hammond's defense lawyer, Tiffany Harris, tried to make the case that since Hammond had participated in the World Naked Bike Ride 12 days before his arrest, and that Last Thursday is traditionally an event for artistic expression, Hammond's ride amounted to an act of constitutionally protected free expression. Or, as Hammond put it: "It wasn't streaking. Streaking is more juvenile. We're not trying to disrupt the high school football game, we wanted to display being free."
The hearing will continue this Wednesday, November 12, with Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Jerome LaBarre expected to rule by the end of the week.
"I think this is a perfect demonstration of the way in which we're called upon to defend the Constitution in instances that can be mundane, and people don't necessarily behave in a way that can be perceived as historic or headline making," Harris said. "But even acts that can be perceived as impish or even obnoxious are entitled to protection under the Constitution. And if we can't get it right in small cases like this, what hope do we have?"