Officials say a man was arrested for nudity and refusing to comply with officers at the gay beach section of Jacob Riis Park over the holiday weekend—but he claims he had just accidentally dropped his towel for a moment when national park police officers swarmed him.
Photographer Krys Fox was at the beach, located on the Rockaway Peninsula by Fort Tilden, on July 4th around 6:30 p.m. when the incident occurred. Fox told Huffington Post that he was taking a friend's photo (as part of an Instagram series he's doing) when the towel tied around his waist slipped off (he wasn't wearing anything underneath).
He told Daily Dot that before he could tie it back up, "he was tackled to the ground by a squad of police." You can see video of him being carried away by officers while screaming, "Help me."
Fox said he's never gotten a ticket before, let alone multiple ones for public nudity, interfering with agency function, disorderly conduct, and disobeying an order. "It’s the worst moment of my life,” Fox told Huffington Post. "My biggest problem is that Riis is my safe space and I’ve been going there for almost a decade. I got married in 2011 almost exactly where I was arrested. I shoot there all summer long and was working on a photo project I was devoting to the Orlando victims."
Other people at the beach at the time came to Fox's defense in Facebook posts about the incident, including one friend who wrote, "his naked body is seen as more dangerous than a gun."
Jacob Riis park is under the auspices of the National Park Service. Sgt. David Somma, Public Affairs Officer for United States Park Police, counters that Fox "was standing there fully nude taking pictures of his friend—officers observed him for a minute or two standing there."
He claims officers asked Fox several times to cover himself up before things escalated: "They walked over to him, asked him to put his towel back around his waist or get dressed, and he refused. They asked him again. They asked if he would walk with officers to another group of gentlemen getting tickets for urinating in public. He refused."
Somma tells us the officers were going to issue him a summons, but Fox "outright refused" to cooperate with them and refused to show them ID. "He refused to sit down on the beach and put a towel on himself," he said. "The most he would have received was a summons for public nudity, but he refused to cooperative, became combative, making a nuisance of himself, drawing attention to himself. So he was arrested and charge with disorderly conduct."
Somma stressed that this kind of incident "doesn't happen very often," and denied officers were targeting the gay part of the beach in particular: "There were extra officers working because of the July 4th weekend," he explained. "There were two plainclothes officers on the beach, others assigned to the area because of the holiday."
He did say that there is a lot of confusion over whether Riis Park is a nude beach or not—women are allowed to go topless, as they are anywhere in New York, but no one is allowed to go bottomless. Gunnison Beach at Sandy Hook in NJ is the only nude beach in the area. "A lot of people think it is a nude beach, but it is not," Sgt. Somma conceded.