Man strips naked at Oregon airport in TSA protest
After an Oregonian hipster type stripped off his clothes at Portland International Airport to protest the TSA, the Gothamist pointed to an incident last week involving a female air traveler baring all at Denver’s Airport and asked if “naked TSA protesting [is] now a trend.”
It’s not really a new trend. Shedding clothes to make a point about invasive airport security practices has been going on since at least 2010. In January 2010, a “fleshmob” exposed their distaste for fully body scanners at an airport in Berlin. And in November of that year, a wheelchair-bound bombshell (of the non-explosive variety) stripped down to her black lingerie to make the TSA agent that would pat her down as uncomfortable as she was with being patted down. The next month, a college student, Aaron Tobey, was arrested in Virginia for stripping down to his underwear at Richmond Airport to reveal the 4th Amendment written in marker on his chest. (He later sued for violation of his speech rights. The government has appealed the case to the 4th Circuit, claiming the federal agents can’t be held liable.)
Baring flesh as protest is not new, though John Brennan of Oregon may be the first to go completely nude for the anti-TSA cause (thus opening himself up to indecent exposure charges). Others have discretely covered their private parts with lingerie or flesh-colored clothing, and the woman who went nude in Denver was actually protesting the airport’s smoking ban, shedding her clothes when instructed to put out her butt.
What’s significant is not the nudity, but the fact that these protests continue. It’s a sign that people are not adjusting to the security measures despite their being in place for several years now. Brennan’s protest makes clear, as Kip Hawley, the former head of the TSA, noted in a recent editorial in the WSJ that “the relationship between the public and the TSA has become too poisonous to be sustained.”
It seems that John Brennan felt so frustrated and powerless in the face of security measures on Tuesday evening that the only option left to him, beyond driving to his destination rather than flying, was to transform his powerlessness into a political statement by making himself as vulnerable as possible. He’s not the first, and I suspect he won’t be the last.