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Portland's World Naked Bike 2016, a protest

[Free Speech]

photolog: World Naked Bike Ride PDX 2016, a protest

The pre-party in Mt. Scott Park and ride’s photo gallery is here.

words and photos by Reviewer Rob

The annual Portland Naked Bike Ride is a legally protected form of free speech.

For a long time now public nudity in Portland has been tolerated by the authorities as long as it was a protest, and this is what the World Naked Bike Ride officially is. The point is to demonstrate against oil-dependency and to protest for body positivity and also demonstrate how dangerous it can be to ride a bicycle on the road alongside cars. What better way to protest how vulnerable one is when sharing the road with cars but by riding in the nude?

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

~wording of the First amendment.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a globally organized effort to stage these protests in various cities but few have as much cooperation as in the City Of Portland, Oregon, whose police, it seems, simply wanted to know about it ahead of time, get a heads-up.

I arrived at the meet-up point, Mt. Scott Park, at the appointed time of 8 p.m., and since this was late June the sun still had about an hour left in the sky. The ride was scheduled to begin there at 9 and the six mile route was secret so the huge crowd (of roughly 10,000 as one estimate called it) would follow the leader to a distant point. The ride would not be a loop. Participant were asked to plan accordingly and most had backpacks and in some cases milk crates tied to their bik racks for holding a change of clothes as they peddled along wearing only tennis shoes and a smile. The ride motto was “As Bare As You Dare”.

The impression I got from the vibe of the crowd was one of real warmth and community. I was working fully clothed in a shorts and a t-shirt with two Nikons hanging off my shoulders by straps — one for still photos and one for video interviews — but when I told the naked people I approached that I was doing research for coverage in Reviewer Magazine nine out of ten of them smiled and enthusiastically agreed to be photographed and in several cases also do a video interview. The few who demurred did so kindly.

More than half the people in Mt. Scott Park were already undressed and seemed to have been that way long before the 8 p.m. meet time as I arrived for the, let’s call it, “pre-party”. People were already hanging-out, body painting, talking and listening to boom boxes. Some people discretely smoked and drank in various groups and a large impromptu naked dance party erupted on the dirt baseball diamond. This went on for quite a while with escalating intensity.

I’ve seen many public protest on the streets before, from union picket lines to church boycotts and political rallies. But none had as much pure comeradic fun for its participants as the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland. These people really enjoyed eachther’s company. Ages ranged broadly from college people in their twenties to families with kids to grey haired geriatrics. Everyone mingled freely. And despite the throng of naked flesh it was surprisingly tame and community-conscious in that there was absolutely zero salaciousness. In media law there’s something called “lascivious display”. It’s what men pay dancers in stripclubs for. But people shot photos of oneanother with their cell phones but I witnessed no sexually intended behaviour at all, no sexy posing, no obvious leering or otherwise weirdness. It was a normal day at the park, except for the nudity.

The ride kicked off at 9 p.m. and the group was crowding the streets for a six mile route that was kept secret until the appointed hour. Standing in one area that was less than a block long to shoot the photos of the rise itself the line of cyclist kept coming for more than an hour. It was an amazing thing, really. Portland is some kind of magical town for this to happen and for everyone to be happy and safe in doing it

Later that night during the event’s afterparty at an upscale Portland bar, the White Owl Social Club, many people partied and danced naked — “as bare as you dare” like they described it — and in the urban streets surrounding the venue people walked to and from their cars, in various states of undress from partial to complete, totally unmolested by the police. They were all part of an official civicly endorsed event that occurred only one day a year.

I keep going back to the idea that this is a unique event happening in Portland even though it is a branch the World Naked Bike Ride. Many other cities have the summertime event, to varied levels of local appeal, but PDX seems to take it to another level. LA’s reportedly went off as scheduled but was largely ignored by the media. San Diego’s was likewise negligibly received in Reagan’s Lucky Town. Las Vegas had a ride but it followed preemptive warnings that public nudity would not be tolerated and was in fact a serious crime in Sin City, go figure.

But the youthful spirit of Portland is strong, so the ride is a huge event there, and a good indicator of a rich future for a city of creativity and innovative thinking. Great cities are liberal at their civic core, and only stifle social independence and freedom at their own detriment. If people are free to safely express themselves and do new things that’s when an environment of newness is formed and a wealth of inventiveness and progress is born.

I plan to come back next year to the WNBRPDX, and may even be bold enough to ride a bike with a banana hammock or something.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

WNBRPDX 2016, photo by Editor@ReviewerMagazine.com.

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