San Francisco, Cali. -- on Saturday, July 28th, at around four in the afternoon, a nude, queer man was arrested for sunbathing in Dolores Park. Prior to this, the scene was--pardon the cliche--like something out of an Armistead Maupin story. Gay men, lesbian women, and queer people of all stripes were at the park. It felt like the 1970s. People were indulging in wine, beer, or cocktails. Some smoked marijuana. Then, at one point a man walked into the park wearing only sandals and a sweater. He carried a bag with him. Public nudity was banned a few years ago, through an incentive created by Scott Wiener.
Nudity in public, before then was not taboo in San Francisco. Cops in San Francisco seemingly ignore people smoking weed in public. Surely, they wouldn’t enforce some silly nudity law. Right? The man in question wasn’t an issue. He wasn’t bothering anyone. But, he was bothering someone and was labeled an inconvenience.
About twenty minutes after the gentleman laid his blanket on the grass, police showed up. They made him put his pants back on. This was after a fairly long attempt from both the police and the nude guy to explain their sides of the story.
He wasn’t having it. He’s probably been coming to Dolores Park to sunbathe nude since the 1970s or 1980s. A few minutes later, he took off his pants again. The police, it should not surprise you to hear, were once again summoned. After several minutes of talking they had him back in his pants. Then they arrested him.
There was a cacophony of boos against the police...but sadly, there was an equal percentage of yay! They seemed happy to see him arrested. They were happy to learn this person, who was perhaps homeless or mentally ill, was removed because he was doing something he was used to doing--sunbathing nude--and somehow offended them.
While they prepared to arrest him, one of the police officers was dancing to the beat of music played nearby. To them, this man’s dignity meant nothing. He was laughing at the nude man’s nudity, and whatever speech he tried to deliver in his defence. Police removed him so he would not offend those nearby. Namely, local residents or day-trippers from the suburbs who probably pay far more in taxes than he can even earn in a number of years.
So, on Saturday at Dolores Park, both faces of the city were on display: someone who was arrested for something he was used to doing amid cheers for him and cheers for the police department.
Update: PQ reached out to the San Francisco Police Department Office of Public Affairs and learned the man in question was not arrested. Instead, he was detained.