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Nudists Arrested in Pride Parade (30 June 2002)

 

Photo: One of the cops waiting to arrest us

Photo: Abuzar marching nude with a sign saying: Keep your laws off my body

TORONTO, June 30 -- Seven men were arrested with allegations of "being nude in a public place" immediately following the Pride Day parade. No charges were laid, but each man arrested was given a summons to appear in court regarding accusations of being nude in a public place. (Two months later the Crown agrees that nudity is not illegal at Pride, and no charges are ever laid. Read the story...)

At least four plainclothes officers trailed us throughout the event, video-taping our presence in the parade. Many others were stationed throughout the parade specifically to report on our progress. At the end of the parade, more than 20 armed officers wearing bullet-proof vests waited to ensure that none of us got away, and to prevent any supporters from interfering with the arrests. This was a needlessly big and expensive police operation; is this how you want your tax dollars spent?

It is important to make a distinction here: the men were arrested and given Notices of Appearance to appear in court, but they have not been officially charged yet.

Warnings

Before the parade began, one of the plainclothes officers warned the group that anyone marching naked would be arrested. When questioned whether they had the consent of the Attorney General to lay charges, Detective Brian Berger of 52 Division, who appeared to lead the arresting force, said they did, but admitted later he wasn't certain. "You know how government works," he said, "it doesn't actually come directly from the Attorney General. Someone above directs someone below."

In a meeting on June 7th between Supt. Aidan Maher of 52 Division and representatives of TNT!MEN, Maher stated that a senior regional Crown Attorney told him that he would be willing to recommend to the Attorney General that he give his consent to prosecution only if all three of the following conditions are met:

  1. nudity must be clearly visible in the parade
  2. there must be a reasonable prospect of conviction
  3. prosecution must be in the public interest

Improper procedure

In later discussions with Supt. Maher, he did not reveal whether the Attorney General of Ontario himself had been consulted. Det. Berger said, "That's how these things are done."

Unfortunately for the police, that isn't true. According to the Criminal Code itself, permission to charge someone under the Public Nudity provision of the Criminal Code must come from the Attorney General personally. [174(3)] Additionally, that consent cannot be obtained or given in advance. And since we were never informed that his consent had been granted, we had no reason to believe that police would act on their threats.

Police don't stop nudity in the Parade

Det. Berger and a colleague marched along with the group for the entire parade. Two of their colleagues stalked us for the last half of the parade, video-taping the proceedings for evidence. This is nothing new; the police have been video-taping us for several years in the parade.

But what is interesting is that they made no move to discourage, prevent, or stop nudity from occuring during the parade. If they truly were concerned with public safety, why didn't they act? Perhaps it was because they knew there was nothing improper or indecent in what we were doing.

When we gathered at the beginning of the parade, there were 22 in our contingent. Three were scared off by the police threats, so we began the parade with 19, but that grew during the parade as people joined us on the route for a time. Altogether, 25 men participated in the march.

Photo: Mostly naked Peter
Even though he wore his cock cover for the entire parade, Peter was also given a summons by police. Det. Berger is on the right.

Photo: Two cops pulling a nude marcher by the arm
The man on the left marched with us for the very first time. The fellow in the middle is an undercover cop who followed us for the entire parade.

A large group of cops waited for us
		  at the end of the parade
One they had swept us past, a long line of cops stood guard to make certain no-one followed us to the arrest area. I guess they were afraid of protestors or something.

An informed decision

The decision to get naked was an informed choice made by each participant. Everyone was warned that the police had threatened to arrest people who marched naked. They knew the risks, it is true.

But they also knew that any charges laid will eventually be defeated in court. Victory on this count is inevitable, though it will take time.

Why risk arrest? Why march nude?

There are two very important issues at stake. The first is that nudity is neither immoral nor criminal, but is instead an important way of declaring and accepting oneself as fully human.

Female nudity is quite common and accepted in our society. You see it everywhere. And males are frequently nude in advertising and entertainment, so long as the penis is hidden. Of the entire human body, only the penis is considered "indecent" by some. Why? When did penises get so scary? Why has the discomfort some people feel at the mere sight of them grown to such pathological levels?

In order to combat the unhealthy attitudes and training that make people fear penises, we feel that marching nude in the parade goes a long way towards helping people accept penises for what they really are: an interesting body part that are fun to look at, fun to play with, and basically pretty harmless.

Nudity at Pride isn't illegal, so use intimidation

The second important issue is that of police oppression. In his recent report submitted to the Police Services Board on May 30, 2002, Chief Julian Fantino wrote about consulting other jurisdictions to determine how they deal with nudity in their Pride parades. He writes:

Several of the police services consulted felt that a level of responsibility should be placed on the parade's organizing committee. During these parades, if a participant's behaviour is of concern, the police may choose to bring it to the attention of the organizing committee for them to address. Placing a level of responsibility for proper conduct at the parade on the organizing committee helps avoid the need for conflict between the police and parade participants. San Francisco also places what are called 'reasonable requirements' on the parade permit; no genital nudity is considered one of the reasonable requirements.

These suggestions and practices are consistent with the Toronto Police Service operational plan.

Minutes of the 30 May 2002 Meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board, page 79.

In other words, by threatening to withhold future Pride Parade permits, police can intimidate the organising committees into policing themselves. Counting on the committees to be ignorant of the true nature of the law, the police seem to feel free to implement their own version of the law in this way.

We saw the first attempt at this back in 1997, when the Toronto Sun reported: "Metro Police are threatening to put a stop to the annual Gay Pride Day parade, claiming excessive nudity and perversion at last Sunday's march." (4 July 1997, "Police Rein on Pride Parade")

Later that same day, CityTV's CityPulse News at 6 reported the following:

Transcript of CityPulse at 6

... ANNE: All right, Colin. City Hall's probably glad to hear tonight about the damage control from Metro Police regarding the future of the Gay Pride Parade. Reports indicated that police were considering stopping next year's march. But Laura di Battista finds top brass tonight saying "Not so fast." (Music)

[Video clip of nude marchers at Toronto 1997 Pride parade]

LAURA: Is this obscene and offensive? And should the entire Gay Pride Day Parade be scrapped because of it? Those are just a couple of the issues being raised today. This all comes from a published report from 52 Division here. A sergeant was quoted as saying, "that, if nudity at the parade continues, then the parade would have to be cancelled." But the word from Headquarters is "No way. That's just one officer's opinion."

NEW SPEAKER: It was his own personal opinion that it was an excessive amount of nudity that would offend the general standards of the community. But that was his own personal opinion. It was not the police department's.

CityPulse Transcript, 4 July 1997. This transcipt was produced by CityTV and was available online at the time.

Notice how the police say "That is not our opinion." They clearly understood at the time that marching nude at Pride is not a violation of community standards, and is therefore not illegal.

A few days later, the Toronto Star published this:

No plan to cancel parade despite nudity, say police

By Bruce DeMara -- Toronto Star

Metro police are not planning to cancel next year's Lesbian and Gay Pride parade and have not expressed concerns about nudity at this year's event, a police spokesperson says.

"No, we're not cancelling the parade," said Sergeant Marilyn McCann yesterday.

A story in The Toronto Sun yesterday, quoting Sergeant Peter Harmsen, suggested police would step in and stop next year's parade after witnessing nudity and other disturbing incidents last weekend.

But McCann said Deputy Chief Robert Molyneaux, the supervising officer at the parade, expressed no concerns except in regard to crowding along the parade route down Yonge St. - something that will be dealt with prior to next year's event.

"The parade went well," McCann said.

"There's no concern about nudity or obscenity. We have not received any complaints at this time."

Metro police Sergeant Jim Muscat said he believes Harmsen's quotes were taken out of context after a hypothetical question was posed to him. Muscat added Harmsen's views don't "reflect how the police services feels."

...

Toronto Councillor Pam McConnell said she enjoyed the parade.

"I didn't think (the parade) was over the top, I thought it was a hoot," she said. "I didn't see anybody offended by (anything)."

Toronto Star, 5 July 1997

But despite the disclaimers of the police brass, the Pride Committee for the 1998 parade came to believe that the threat was serious, as was revealed by a press release they wrote the next year:

I am writing to advise you of the Pride Toronto Comittee's position concerning people that march nude in the Pride Parade.

The Pride Toronto Commmittee cannot condone activities that are against the law and that jeopardise our gaining future event permits. We ask all those who might be contemplating a "Full Monty Parade" not to do so. Making your point in this way puts everyone's parade atnd festival at risk.

In the past, not wanting to harm relations with the broader gay community, the police have chosen not to intervene on their own initiative and make arrests of fully naked people within the Pride Parade route or street festival site. However, after last year's event, complaints were lodged which we can no longer ignore.

Excerpt from Toronto Pride Committee Press Release, 22 May 1998.

Notice the use of "we" in the last sentence. Since when was Pride controlled by people who lodge complaints? Pride started despite legal police oppression. Many people have complained that Gay Pride celebrations even exists, but that hasn't stopped them from being organised year after year, in many cities around the world.

It seems likely that it was the police who were the inspirations for that sentence. But not openly; it was done behind closed doors, away from the light of day.

And yet, when we marched naked (except for footwear) in 1999, 2000, and 2001, the police had nothing to say, and there was no hint that Pride would be shut down.

Why arrest nudists now?

Simply put, it's a political decision. There is a group of "family-values" extremists (one of those values is the right to spank your child!) who oppose everything to do with homosexuality, sexual freedom, acceptance of diversity, and the right of the individual to decide what is best for them. They call themselves "REAL Women". They have opposed every gay rights initiative in Canada since the 1960s. They don't really have any polical clout; government and police generally regard them as nuisances, and pay them little attention.

They started complaining about us marching nude in 1997, once they heard that we had marched nude without problem. They wrote then Chief Boothby to complain that no arrests were made. He ignored them. So they complained to the Ontario Civil Commission of Police Services, who told them that the Attorney-General's office had refused its consent to lay such charges. A speaker for 52 Division said police could not arrest anyone because such charges were not enforceable. (REALity, July/August 1998)

They didn't like this response, of course. They continued their complaining each year, without success. Their complaints in June and October of 2000 to Chief Julian Fantino were ignored. (REALity, Nov/Dec 2000)

But their complaint to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services at the end of 2001 (REALity, Sep/Oct 2001) resulted in the Police Services Board reviewing the matter. At the Feb 28, 2002 meeting, they decided that no further action would be taken with regards to the REAL Women complaint. But Chief Fantino was told to prepare a report on how other juridictions deal with nudity at their Pride parades.

Let's force the Crown to deal with it

But now, no doubt getting tired of getting that complaint each year from REAL Women, it seems the police have decided to pass the buck. Rather than they and their legal advisors having to deal with the REALs, the cops have chosen to arrest us against the advice of the Crown, and force the Crown and perhaps the courts to deal with the matter.

And don't forget intimidation

They also tried the intimidation approach again. Fortunately, the current Pride committee wouldn't budge. They know that police do have the authority to give out or deny parade permits; only City Hall can do that. So they told the police that it is not their job to interpret or enforce the law. That's up to the courts and the police, respectively.

And unfortunately, the police have once again decided to ignore the decision of the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that if you are wearing anything at all, even just footwear, then you must be "so clad as to offend against public decency." And the Appeals Court of Ontario has said that "public decency" in this case must refer to a tolerance of the risk of harm people are exposed to in viewing an "indencent" person. Given that no-one was harmed in 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, or 2002 at Toronto's Gay Pride parade, or for that matter at any other event featuring public nudity, such as Spencer Tunick's recent photo shoot on the streets of Montreal featuring over 2,000 people, or the world-famous Bay to Breakers runs in San Francisco which feature up to a hundred nudists among the thousands of runners, the courts are compelled to dismiss the charges.

Has the Attorney General actually given his consent for charges to be laid? We haven't been told yet. Stay tuned for more info.

For more info, please contact:
Peter Simm
TNT!MEN Secretary and Legal Counsel

 

See Also:
 
Updates
 

September 12, 2002: Crown Agrees Nudity is Legal! Crown Attorney Paul Culver conceded today that there is no possibility of a conviction for public nudity at Pride. The summons to appear in court the men were given are dropped, and no charges are ever laid!

August 7, 2002: Peter Simm went to the Court room at the scheduled time, and immediately noticed that this case wasn't included on the list for the day's cases. He spoke with a junior Crown Attorney who was also confused that the case wasn't listed. She knew it was to be delayed until Sep 18, but this can't be formally done unless the matter was on list for that day.

After trekking around Old City Hall, Peter met with another Crown Attorney who apologised on behalf of Senior Crown Attorney Paul Culver that he came to court for nothing. She had no explanation for the mix-up. She mentioned that she had tried reaching Paul Culver and the police officer in charge of the arrests, but neither was available.

July 30, 2002: Peter Simm received a fax from Paul Culver, the Regional Senior Crown Attorney. He asks that the August 7 court appearance be delayed until September 18. He writes: "Please be advised that we will require further time to consider the position of the Crown with respect to the issue of whether to proceed with these charges against your clients. Although our legal research has been completed, we require further time to consider the many "policy" issues that you raise in your brief. As you can appreciate, the decision of the Crown in this particular case may have other implications in the future. Because of the summer vacation period, it has been difficult to meet with those that have a concern with these issues."

Peter Simm responds: "Reading between the lines, it appears the Crown has accepted my analysis. The Crown is now determining if there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction, given the particulars of the case. Culver is trying to see if he can conjure up "a reasonable apprehension of a substantial risk of harm to on-lookers or society". I don't think he can. It is in our best interest to allow him more time to satisfy himself of this."

July 5, 2002: As of today, the police have still not contacted the Crown Attorney's office regarding this matter. Only if the Crown Attorney believes that a conviction is possible will the matter be passed on to the Attorney General. Peter Simm is send the Crown Attorney a legal brief summarising his arguments. We believe there is a good chance that no charges will actually be laid.

See also:

To: tnt@tntmen.org
From: Luke Subject: Pride Day

Dear TNT!MEN:

I was outraged to hear about the police harassment you suffered in Toronto last weekend. If I had been able to be in Toronto, I would have been marching with you... Your philosophies are dead on and I have always been 100% in favour of them. I love being nude whenever and wherever possible and had some of my most fun times in Toronto when I have participated in events you have sponsored, such as the nude swims and naked night at the Toolbox. I am also very proud to have my web site as part of your links page.

I wish you well. I know you will prevail, as you have done in the past.

Power to TNT!MEN! Power to public nudity! Power to the penis!

   
Criminal Code of Canada

Public Nudity
174 (1). Everyone who, without lawful excuse,
(a) is nude in a public place, or
(b) is nude and exposed to view while on private property, whether or not the property is his own,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
 
174 (2). For the purposed of this section, a person is nude who is so clad as to offend against public decency or order.
 
174 (3). No proceedings shall be commenced under this section without the consent of the Attorney General.

Letter to the Editor

I was arrested for public nudity in the pride parade, one of the Censored Seven in TNT!MEN's marching contingent.

In 1992 I discovered a gathering of gay male nudists, hosted by Gay Naturists International (GNI), and couldn't get myself and my partner there fast enough. Up to 800 men converge for a week of summer fun in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mtns. I found my tribe, and haven't looked back.

In 1994, my partner and I attended Stonewall 25 in NYC, and happened upon some Radical Faeries marching naked in the parade. We joined them, shedding our clothes. It was incredibly exhilarating.

In 1996, a fellow nudist and I stripped and walked naked in the Toronto Gay Pride parade. Thank-you to the Black Eagle's contingent who gave us support and encouragement that year.

Since then, my partner and I have continued to help facilitate TNT!MEN's presence at the Pride Day celebrations and in the parade. There has been controversy surrounding our nakedness, but we have made incredible inroads.

I want to let people know that there is a strong gay nudist movement in the USA, parts of Europe, and in Vancouver and T.O.. The concept is burgeoning, at least as a gay holiday, if not a total lifestyle.

I equate this movement with the earlier years of the gay movement itself, when one went to P-Town, NYC or SF for the total gay experience.

TNT!MEN had 370 at our nude Pride dance at the Barn. Thanks to those visiting T.O..

As gays and lesbians have made their presence known and gained acceptance in the larger population, nudists too will claim their place. Let's not make our choices out of fear, ignorance or intimidation. I see nothing shocking or disturbing about expressing my love for my own sex or my desire to shed my clothes. In my heart I know this is right for me.

In spite of the citation, I had the most fabulous Pride.

Men have dicks; get used to it! And then get naked.

Peter Gray.

A short version was printed in NOW, 18 July 2002.

REALity July-August 1998
The Newsletter of R.E.A.L. Women

A group of men marched completely nude in the 1997 Toronto Gay Pride Parade.... The Metropolitan Toronto Police, 52 Division (responsible for the Gay Pride Day Parade), advised us that the Attorney-General's office had refused its consent to lay such charges. Superintendent James Parkin, also of 52 Division, wrote to say that his Division could not lay charges on the grounds that such charges were not enforceable.

To: TNT!MEN
Subject: Thanks to you and TNT!MEN

David,

I want to thank you and the guys of TNT for allowing my friend Rik and me the privilege of marching with you in the Pride Parade Sunday. For me it was a real thrill, a fantasy fulfilled, to march totally naked in a parade and seen by hundreds of thousands of people. And to show to people, if not the police, that civilization as they know it doesn't come to an end when they see a naked man in public.

I will be forever grateful to you and will revere you for making the suggestion that we just slip away: you saved Rik and me a world of trouble. My exhilaration about the parade is mixed with sadness that other guys, who did no more than I did, and in Peter's case, did less so far as coverage went, suffered arrest for it.

In gratitude to TNT, I would like to make a small contribution to help with legal costs of defense. ...

Rik and I got out to Hanlan's Point Monday, using a water taxi, and enjoyed that accomplishment of you guys. A fair number of people had managed to get out there, but it wasn't nearly as crowded as it would have been if the ferries had been running. It was amusing to me that the one place the signs tell you how to find is the C.O. beach. Here in the States, public signs usually don't tell you how to find the C.O. beaches.

If you have the time and opportunity, I would love to see any pics you might have of me. Of course if sending them directly is a problem, I can wait until you post them to the web site.

We made it home to Virginia in one long day of driving Tuesday.

George.

To: TNT!MEN
Subject: charges of nudity...

Hey TNT!MEN!

I just read a blurb about the parade and arrests and want to first offer my support/condolances, and also what I say to people when they (often) complain about nudity in the parade.

Have you seen the incredible amount of physical violence that children are "subjected" to on TV, in film, and on those computer games? Heads roll, bodies are blown apart, blood splattered everywhere... Oh ya, rape scenes are also quite common on the tube. However, we get all squeeked over passion, gentle intimate sex and nudity. Most people will recognize that the violence is not a good role model, and that in fact nudity is nothing but natural. (Did I mention I'm a nudist?)

Second, to you, TNT!MEN, as a woman I can tell you that breasts are also under attack, and have been my entire life. No consolation, but we women are constantly under scrutiny in the breast area, and no amount of covering up can stop it! We now have the legal right to go topless anywhere that men can, but the difference between legal and safe/comfortable is great. Still, I appreciate the law change and hope that society will follow and eventually topless women will be as common a sight as men topless.

Good luck with your trial.

Nancy.

To: TNT!MEN
Subject: To the "Censored Seven"

Hello Friends,

My apologies for taking so long to send you this message, but ever since my return from Toronto Pride I've been caught up with preparations for our Pride celebrations here in Ottawa this weekend. I'm with GoNuts (Gay Ottawa Naked Under the Sun) and we're participating in the Ottawa Pride information fair for the first time.

I have been wanting to write to express my whole-hearted support for those of my fellow naked marchers who had to suffer the indignity of receiving a court summons from "Toronto's finest" at the conclusion of the parade. This was my second year marching with TNT!MEN in the Pride parade and I can say that I wouldn't miss it for the world. It is truly one of the most liberating and exhilarating experiences I've ever had. I can't think of a better way to celebrate my love for being naked and the beauty of the human body!

I was appalled that the police actually decided to act on their warnings of arrest of naked marchers, in spite of an emerging "tradition" over the past few years of turning a blind eye to the men of TNT!MEN. Although I was not one of those escorted to the police station (nor were the other two marchers from Ottawa), I want to say that I stand firmly behind all of you who were given summonses. Although I'm here in Ottawa, if there is anything I can do to help, I would be most willing.

Thank you Toronto, for your tireless efforts to make at least part of Canada more naked! It sets a high standard for the rest of us.

In naked solidarity,

Paul from Ottawa



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Last Update: Fri Sep 13 03:44:00 EDT 2002
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