Nude Ban Protest

Croquet takes center stage outside chamber

August 4, 2004

By Emily Morris
Tidings Correspondent

Croquet is associated with old-world etiquette, or was for some people, until driving by last night’s city council meeting, where a group of nude croquet players gathered for mint tea, music and a friendly protest on the municipal building lawn.

Most people agree that nudity became much more visible after the City of Ashland’s June legislation banning the display of genitals downtown or in the city parks. In response, a small group of community members have organized several protests of the ban.

Ryan Navickas said the protest is about the city enforcing a moral preference. Although the appeals process has passed, Navickas appeared, clothed, during the public forum to request that the city review their decision.

“Reconsider the harmless act of being viewed,” he said, asking the council not to criminalize the human body and to acknowledge the pureness of nudity. Navickas waited for a moment, but none of the council members made a motion.

Outside, passing motorists honked and waved. One black pickup truck hit the brakes in front of the municipal lawn, taking the red SUV behind it by surprise and resulting in a minor collision.

Navickas said it was encouraging to hear the support from passing motorists who waved and cheered. He estimates that 90 percent of passing vehicles made some sign of support. No one walked off the street to join the protesters, but one passing skateboarder did drop his pants, Navickas said.

City councilors seemed to take the protest with good humor. Mayor Alan DeBoer chatted a moment with the protesters before the meeting, and other members of the council laughed at the demonstration.

Councilor Chris Hearn said the new ordinance is directed towards tourism, a major revenue source for the city. Hearn said the nudity ban is of interest only to a specific group, and aside from the activists outside the council, he has not heard about the issue from other constituents.

“Someone told me this morning that we have dog parks, we should have a nudist park,” Hearn said to some councilors before the meeting.

While nudity is not allowed in the parks and downtown, people are still free to demonstrate in other areas of the town. People are also free to be topless anywhere in town.

“See that park over there?” asked Navickas, pointing down the block, “We can’t be naked over there, but over here it is fine.”

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