I’ve been harassed by cops who were sure that my being barefoot in government buildings was illegal. I have a friend who actually was arrested by a cop because that cop thought it was illegal to be in a grocery store while barefoot. (He was acquitted.)
Just what is it about some cops?
I’m writing here about something that actually took place a couple of months ago, but I just haven’t written up yet. It’s also not (directly) about barefooting, even though the person involved was barefoot at the time of its occurrence. What I find interesting, though, is how the cops reacted, and just how similar that is to what barefooters have sometimes had to go through with cops.
I mentioned that this happened to a barefooted person. The problem wasn’t that she was barefooted — she was bare-breasted.
It was all part of an event called Ocularpation, organized by an artist named Zefrey Throwell. The idea was to “expose” Wall Street, by having various performers do routine jobs while naked. There were 50 people signed up, and they “worked” at various jobs from the Wall Street area such as office worker, or hot dog walker, or dog-walker. You can read the New York Times story here.
Our intrepid heroine was the dog-walker. Well, actually, an invisible-dog walker:
Now, the thing you need to know is that it is perfectly legal for women in New York (the whole state) to be topfree. That was established way back in 1992 in People v. Santorelli. Yet, women in New York regularly get arrested for it, and then the city has to pay off false arrest lawsuits.
A few quick asides:
In the nudist/naturist community, “topfree” is preferred over “topless”. “Topless” often has the connotation of the sexually-charged atmosphere of topless bars. “Topfree” is meant to convey women going without a top in a non-sexual way, just as men do.
Being topfree is legal in more places than you might think. It’s legal here in Ohio where I live, and the city of Columbus has also had to settle false arrest lawsuits when topfree women were arrested.]
Continuing the story . . .
You can read Felicity’s account here. What interests me is the story of the cop:
Officer, putting on the handcuffs- “Here you go, is that what you wanted??”
Officer- “What is all this going on?”
Me- “It’s an art performance.”
Officer- “This isn’t art, this is retarded!”
Me- “That’s subjective…Isn’t it legal for me to be topless anywhere in NYC?”
Officer- “Yeah right what do you think you’re doin’ walkin around topless like you’re walking a dog. You need to come with me and be mentally evaluated, then after that maybe you’ll be free to go. It’s retarded, this is just stupid pretending to walk a dog with no shirt on. There are children around.” (I did not see one child during this performance.)
Me- “Sometimes people pretend to do things in art…”
It’s just an example of how cops can (and ofttimes do) decide that something is illegal and arrest you. It can apply to being bare-breasted, and it can apply to being barefooted. And once they’ve decided, there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. It also shows that, quite often, the cops are quite unaware of just what the law is.
Another thing it demonstrates is how cops will cover up afterwards, or find some other way to justify their actions. Felicity was arrested (originally) for public indecency. However, when the cop got her back to the station, the charge magically morphed into that catch-all “disorderly conduct”.
That is also what happened to my friend who got arrested for being barefooted. After he disputed that it was illegal for him to be in the store barefooted, the cop then frog-marched him out of the building and arrested him, instead, for criminal trespass (because he had not left quickly enough, according to her). The final straw was when he refused to leave the parking lot because his wife and child were still inside the store.
When I got frog-marched out of the Franklin County Courthouse, that cop threatened me with arrest for criminal trespass if I did come back in barefoot. Again, he was absolutely convinced that it was illegal for me to be in there barefoot. It wasn’t. He also refused to listen to anything I had to say about it.
The thing is, I was there to file a brief in a lawsuit I was involved with, and I had to file the paper that day. So I went back in through a different door, stayed on different floors, and got my brief filed. Later, I wrote a stiff letter to the Building Manager saying that I would be filing another brief in about a week, and if I did get arrested, I really would be filing a false arrest lawsuit. The Building Manager wrote me a nice apology (particularly after I met with their Deputy Director — wore suit & tie & shoes for that one).
Finally, let me say that I have nothing against police officers. I know quite a few and they are nice guys and gals. But there are a few . . .