Nudists vow to reject order from 'bunch of uptight Americans' to cover up but city officials cautiously optimistic ban will pass
San Francisco nudists said on Monday they would continue to walk the streets naked regardless of a proposed law that would order them to cover up.
City authorities are meeting on Tuesday to decide on a new anti-nudity law that is being supported by residents and business owners in the city's Castro district.
The law would make it an offence for anyone over the age of five to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza".
Lloyd Fishbach, left, who was standing naked at the corner of Castro and Market, said it should be his choice to dress as he wants, where he wants.
"There is always someone who is not going to like what you are doing," he said. "I live in the Castro and I've been doing this since first grade. This is just a bunch of uptight Americans. But I'll still keep doing it and if I see the cops coming I will run and hide."
Natalie Mandeau and her friend Dany, pictured below, said they travelled from Berlin when they heard of the proposed ban on nudity in San Francisco.
Dany said: "If America bans this it would be a shame. San Francisco is one of the only places in the world where you can experience real American freedom."
Castro resident George Davis added that there would be a backlash against the law and warned that Scott Wiener, the area representative who proposed the ban, will face strong opposition at the next election in 2013.
He added: "I told him that if this passes I will run against him and I will do it in the nude."
But many locals are fed up with the phenomenon that has seen nudists gather on an almost daily basis for the past two years at a busy intersection in the neighbourhood. The Castro is the city's gay district and famously a place for exuberant public displays and wild parties, particularly for Gay Pride, Halloween and various annual celebrations.
The proposed ban makes exceptions for nudity during special occasions and on certain beaches, but Andrea Aiello, the executive director of the Castro Community Benefit District, said the current situation has to stop.
"We support the ban on public nudity mainly because it has been taken to the extreme," she said. "Three or four years ago, there were occasionally nude men on Castro or Market, and it was fine, but since then there has been a larger and larger gathering, and it's spreading throughout the neighbourhood.
"It's not a dead end or a beach; it's a busy transit district. There is an underground station and streetcars and buses, and people don't know when they're getting off a bus that they have to walk through this plaza where there are lots of naked men sitting around, displaying themselves spreadeagle. It has become a place for exhibitionism rather than nudism."
Many business owners complained that some of the people attracted by the freedom to be naked in public were using nudity as an excuse for lewd behaviour. Some wear jewellery on their genitals that many find to be obscene, and there were also claims that some of the men are often visibly aroused.
Philip Parr, who works at an adult store beside the plaza, said: "People think that this is a gay issue, but it's not. The gay community has changed. A lot of people here have kids now, through adoption or whatever, and there is a school one block away and the kids all come by here at about 2pm every day. But these people think that because gays are very tolerant that they can come here and do this, but it's not acceptable."
Scott Wiener of the San Francisco legislature said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the ban he proposed will be passed.
"Some of these people are very passionate about this issue and their right to be nude, and I respect their point of view – but I don't agree with them," he said.
He said the situation was now "over the top", leaving no option other than the proposed ban. If the nudists flout the law, they face a $100 fine for a first offence. A third violation could result in a fine of $500 and a year in prison.
Nudists on Strike (Flickr / danishdynamite)