This is the story of my recent arrest and a night spent in jail in Paris. I was charged with “indecent exposure” for dancing on the street nude.
My name is Gypsy Taub. I am a body freedom activist from San Francisco. I am originally from Russia.
I went to the nudist resort in Cap D’Adge, France, with my daughter Inti Gonzalez(age 16) and my sons Nebo Gonzalez(14) and Daniel Gonzalez (12).
A supporter of my body freedom activism invited us to Cap D’Adge. On the way back we were in Paris for a day.
My kids and I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral and were walking down the river Seine when we heard an old street musician play a Russian song “Ochi chorniye” and play an accordion. I had to stop and listen. More fun songs followed and I started dancing, dressed at first. After a few songs I decided that it was time for some body freedom activism and some fun. I love dancing especially dancing nude.
I got naked and danced for a good 20 minutes if not longer. Boats passed by, lots of people smiled, waved, filmed with their phone cameras. I noticed a muslim young woman smile. She stuck around watching me dance.
My kids Inti and Daniel were on the look out for the cops all that time while Nebo filmed me dance.
All of a sudden my daughter Inti yelled: “Cops, cops, they are on a boat!” I quickly grabbed my yellow silk wrap around skirt, wrapped myself in it and ran up the stairs onto the street. My sons told me later that about 4 cops with bullet proof vests and Famas assault rifles ran after me. As they were passing by the street musician he yelled at them condemning their actions.
Nebo was worried about getting arrested and unfortunately did not film the cops as much. But he did capture a little bit of them on camera.
I found a great place to hide – behind an old dresser that I found in front of a building. I could have hid so well behind it but I didn’t think the cops would chase me that far and wasn’t hiding very well. When the cops finally showed up they almost walked past me but since my arm was visible a little bit they did find me.
They asked me if I was the one who had been dancing nude and why. I told them it was me and that I was doing it for fun. The 2 cops kept asking me questions about my identity for a good 20-30 min. Then a big police van arrived with 3 or 4 other cops. One of them was a white brunette in her early 40s. She was really pissed off about me dancing naked. I had been giving the cops misspelled versions of my name before but once the van arrived I realized I wasn’t going to get away so easily and told them that my kids had my passport. They put me in their van (no handcuffs, just the seat belt). In the States the cops ride separately from the arrestees, but in that van I was riding in the same area with all the cops (except for the driver who was separated from us with a glass wall). They took me as close to the spot where I had been dancing as they could and then they went on foot looking for my kids. In the meantime they told me to stay in the van and not to take my seat belt off. It was funny how they were worried that I would run away and were using a seat belt instead of hand cuffs. I am not sure if they even had handcuffs.
They found my kids and brought them back and loaded them all in the same van while some of the cops had to sit on the floor with us.
My son Nebo secretly turned his phone on and started recording. The female officer got really pissed off when she noticed. She turned his phone off.
We all arrived at the police station. We were there for hours. The kids got really tired. We asked the cops if they would open the jail cell that was adjacent to their office and let the kids lie down there. They agreed. I thought it was funny how they let my kids sleep in the jail cell.
When I was talking to the officers who arrived second they were pretty supportive of my activism. I told them I was an activist and they asked me why. I said I was a body freedom activist. One of the younger cops said: “body freedom, why not?” All the male officers (there were about 4 or 5 of them) seemed to be on my side. There were 2 other female cops who were very nice but the original female cop was trying to cause as much trouble as she possibly could.
She was on a major power trip trying to get me in trouble for indecent exposure in front of minors. She was really pissed off about the video we took in the police van because I refused to give her the password to my phone. I said I was willing to delete the video in front of her. She agreed, but as soon as I entered the password she grabbed the phone away from me and took off with it. Another hour or so later I was asked for the contact phone number of my friend who could come and get the kids. I told the cops his contact number was in my phone even though it was on a piece of paper and not in my phone. They had to give me the phone back which was exactly my plan. I wasn’t happy about the cops snooping through my personal photos and videos. When they gave me my phone back I powered it off. I told them: ” Oh yeah, I actually have my friend’s number on a piece of paper in my wallet.” After that they asked me for my password again and I said no. The power tripping female cop got even more pissed off.
We also had a small confrontation with another female cop who was there for a short time. She was a young chubby black girl who spoke English quite well.
The kids and I were having a lively discussion. She came over to us and said: “Just shut up! I am telling you you just have to shut up! Just shut up, OK?”
I don’t take it lightly when people insult my kids. I told her:” Don’t talk to my kids like that! You can tell us to be quiet but you have no right to be rude.” Surprisingly, she didn’t do anything in response, I guess her power was limited to running her dirty mouth. In any event, she actually listened to me. She walked away to the other side of the room and said: “Be quiet!” She behaved herself the rest of the night.
Many hours passed. The power tripping female cop was doing her best to get me jailed even though we had a flight to catch the next morning. I told the cops about our flight and that we couldn’t afford new tickets but the female cop had no mercy. The rest of the cops felt bad, it was obvious. The other 2 females were super friendly and tried to be helpful as much as they were able to. The male cops were almost exaggeratedly polite when giving us water and escorting us to the bathroom. Really, besides that one female cop everyone else was hoping we would get released.
At one point I was informed that the charges had been filed and that I would have to stay till at least 10 am, which meant that I would miss my flight to New York.
I was interviewed by an investigator. The next day the interview would be given to the judge and that way I would not need to see the judge unless she/he chooses to take this to a higher level. I was told by a cop, by the interpreter, by the public defender and by my nudist friend who lives in Paris (I talked to him on the phone) that the charges would be dropped and that I would be released in the morning even though by the books I could get up to 5 years in prison for indecent exposure. In France any public nudity is considered indecent exposure. There is no differentiation between sexual and non-sexual nudity. However, they seem to apply this law in a very forgiving manner. In most cases all you get is a night in jail until the charges are dropped in the morning.
My public defender mentioned a case from 2014. An artist named Stephen Cohen was arrested for showing his penis in public. He danced in front of tourists and nuns with a rooster attached to his penis. His defense was that it was an artistic performance, the same defense that I was using. He was found guilty but no sentence was imposed.
Their way of handling interviews was very interesting. An investigator was assigned to interview me. He was an ordinary looking cop in his 50s. I was given an interpreter and a public defender. The interview lasted over an hour. I was asked so many questions about my life, my economic situation (I was told that the prosecutor would make a decision whether to give me a fine based on my economic situation). They asked me about my marriage and such. It was interesting that they spent a long time trying to understand and document my activism. At least half of the interview was about my activism, my protest, my websites, blogs etc.
I gave them my activist name (Gypsy Taub) and told them they could Google me. They quickly found my photos at the City Hall with cops, then later they Googled my wedding pictures. They were very interested in my activism and were quite entertained. The public defender made sure to write down the url of the wedding photos. He was a younger progressive man and was very helpful. He was supposed to be silent throughout the interview. But he kept chiming in and the investigator asked him questions from time to time. The interpreter was also quite young, probably in his late 20s. He was clearly on my side and was very supportive the whole time. I kept making jokes and everybody laughed and added their own humorous comments. It felt like a small informal party rather than a police interrogation.
We spent some time discussing the influence of France on the rest of the world. I told them that the whole world had once been liberated by the French. The French brought so much sexual liberation, so much art, music, so much body freedom to this world. The investigator ( a pretty ordinary looking cop in his 50s) said: “That was a long time ago.” I told him: “I was trying to revive the spirit of Paris.” He responded: “It is dead.” I said: “Yeah, that’s what I have been discovering”. Everybody laughed.
I was told that the prosecutor might choose to delete the videos of me dancing nude because they were considered criminal. Now that I disclosed that I plan to post the videos on Youtube they were worried about them being published. They kept asking me for the password to my phone and said that if the prosecutor chose to delete them they would hack into my phone anyway.
I told them: “By imprisoning me and threatening to delete my videos you are disrespecting your own cultural history.” The investigator took my message seriously and instantly started defending himself. He said: “I hope you realize that this is nothing personal against you, we are just doing our job.” The question about the password to my phone was never raised again.
After the interview I was once again escorted to my cell. There was a toilet there that stunk so bad I nearly threw up and felt nauseous for the first 2 hours until I got used to it. There was a water faucet but no towels and no toilet paper. I had to sleep on a cushioned bench that hadn’t been cleaned in months and was given a blanket that felt and smelled like it hadn’t been washed for months if not years.
In the morning I was released. The cops were very happy to see me released. The mean female cop was gone by then.
It’s funny how it all worked out. The mean female cop did her best to fuck me over and was so happy when she succeeded with her attempts to file charges against me. She was shining with joy when she got her way. But the funny part is that she actually helped me. Because I only had one day in Paris and really wanted to stay longer. Thanks to having to stay in jail and missing my flight I was able to spend an extra day in Paris with my kids. My friend managed to change our flights to the next morning without too much sacrifice. My kids and I spend the next day exploring Paris. We saw really beautiful buildings, took lots of great photos, heard and danced to some awesome street music and later at night we took a tour of Paris in one of those motorized bycicle/carts that looked like a modified cool looking golf cart. We went to the Eifel Tower at midnight, it looked so much more beautiful than it looks in photos.
So in the end the mean female cop ended up helping me and my kids enjoy Paris for one more day despite her mean intentions. Or may be it was divine intervention?
I am actually glad that I got arrested and detained, glad to have learned more about this planet, and specifically Paris and the struggle that its people are having with the new conservative/yuppie influences on their once liberal and liberating culture.