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Marion Square Sunbathing Burns Up Councilman
Charleston Post & Courier ^ | April 25, 2003 | JASON HARDIN

Posted on 04/25/2003 2:59:48 PM PDT by Big Steve

Marion Square sunbathing burns up councilman

Gilliard approaches police, C of C about deterring bikini display

Of The Post and Courier Staff

It's Charleston's own version of "shock and awe:" scantily clad sunbathers soaking up the rays in Marion Square.

Ever since the city wrapped up its renovation of the popular downtown park, it has become a hot spot for bikini-wearing college students. On any fine day, dozens of students soak up rays, turning heads and even, apparently, stopping traffic.

One city councilman says the display is inappropriate in a place frequented by families and surrounded by churches. Councilman Wendell Gilliard says he is ready to take a stand, comparing the activity to the hot-selling "Girls Gone Wild" videos of college students in various stages of drunken undress.

"I've seen them pushing the limit. They have their breasts exposed, their ... rear end exposed, wearing a G-string bikini," he said. "This 'Girls Gone Wild'-type attitude has caught ahold all across the country. We don't want it to get to that point, but I'm sad to say I think it's at that point now."

Gilliard, who has led the city's effort to shut down a West Ashley adult video store, said he was disturbed by the sight of several sunbathers during a recent gospel music concert in the park. He added that they have caused other problems, including a recent traffic jam.

"Everybody thought something had happened, but these two guys in a truck were looking at the girls laying out on the lawn," he said.

Gilliard recently asked city police to look into whether the bikinis violate the city's indecent exposure ordinance, and he will meet with College of Charleston officials to ask them to deter students from sunbathing in the park.

It's not clear whether his efforts will lead anywhere. His comments drew little reaction from other council members at a recent Charleston City Council meeting, and Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said he doesn't agree that sunbathing is a problem.

For students lying in the sun Thursday afternoon, the idea of a crackdown on sunbathing went over like a third- degree burn. Most said no one would see anything there that couldn't be seen at the beach and that there's nothing wrong with seeing people in bathing suits anyway.

"Girls walk around in skimpy bathing suits. That's what they do here," said Shannon Malmstrom, stretched out in the grass with two friends, all wearing two-piece bathing suits.

Students say they come to the park to relax, hang out with friends and sometimes meet members of the opposite sex. Many don't have cars and don't have an easy way to get to the beach. Back on their campus, there are few spots where enough sun filters through the live oaks to make sunbathing worthwhile, they said.

Jennifer De La Cuesta said she doubted any kind of sunbathing ban would work.

"Do you know what kind of protests there would be? Everybody would be out here sunbathing," she said.

"Everybody would be naked!" joked Malmstrom.

Those with more clothes on agreed.

Sam Morgan, visiting Charleston from Virginia, said he saw no problem with students in bathing suits.

"If there were frolicking in the fountain, having a wet T-shirt contest, that would be something different," he said.

That idea seemed to sound all right to another park-goer, who declined to give his name.

"Let 'em go wild," he said. Dennis Brown, lounging in the park with his dog Schatzy, said Gilliard's idea smacks of government intrusion.

"If this person feels offended, then he should avert his gaze. But he simply has no right whatsoever to impinge on the rights of others," he said. "We still have one foot in the Victorian Age."

Brown said he likes to see women sunbathing.

"There's nothing wrong with it," he said. "I'm able to simply enjoy female beauty and not feel guilty about it. There's a big difference between enjoying and leering."

Not everyone disagreed with the Gilliard's idea.

The Rev. Carl Wiggins, pastor of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Ladson, said he wouldn't mind seeing a sunbather-free Marion Square.

"I'm here praying, and it's hard on a human being not to be distracted," he said.

Concerns about improper attire aren't new in Charleston. In recent years, some downtown residents have complained about sloppily dressed tourists, although no one has sought to ban them. For the most part, those complaints have centered more on questions of respect than outright indecency.

The city's indecent exposure ordinance states, "No person shall appear in any public place or property open to the public in state of nudity or otherwise make any indecent exposure of his or her person."

Gilliard said he does not necessarily want police to start attempting to enforce the ordinance against bikini-wearing sunbathers, although he does hope the college will attempt to restrain them.

Riley said he does not agree there is a problem.

"It's spring, and warm days after a cold, gray, dreary winter ... attract sunbathers," he said. "Frankly, I feel that it's a very positive thing that Marion Square, beautifully restored ... is attractive to our citizenry."

Police Maj. Herb Whetsell said officers would have a difficult time trying to enforce an ordinance against sunbathers, although public nudity is another thing entirely.

"If a person is standing out there peeing on the sidewalk, yeah, we'll lock them up," he said.

Figuring out what kind of swimsuit should be considered indecent would be difficult, he said.

"The problem is, the Supreme Court has been trying to figure out for 30 or 40 years what indecent exposure is. So how's a cop going to figure it out? he said. "It is unenforceable ordinance. That's something you just don't want touch."

TOPICS: Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: South Carolina
KEYWORDS: cofc; councilman; sunbathing
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To: dixie sass
This is a serious question. If the exposure is indecent as you say, why should it be allowed on a public beach, any more than in a square in the business district? Should paddy wagons be patrolling the beach too? Fair is fair.
51 posted on 04/27/2003 1:52:23 AM PDT by bluefish
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To: bluefish; Japedo; PistolPaknMama; BattleFlag; ccfromsc; Hillarys Gate Cult; ironcitymike; SCDee; ..
Does he live in Charleston? I don't think so! This is my town, those students are merely vistors to this area.

Charleston beaches include Folly Beach, Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms, Lyons Beach, etc, etc, etc., I don't care what a person wears to the beach, but I do care when it is the center of the tourist and business district in Charleston.

I can remember my Daddy coming back from Boston, just absolutely disgusted with the same kind of thing happening in Boston. This was twenty or more years ago. I don't want the same thing that happened in Boston to happen in Charleston.

52 posted on 04/27/2003 5:24:44 AM PDT by dixie sass (GOD bless America)
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To: dixie sass
The community has the legal right to regulate where behaviors may take place, as in banning strip joints from locating too close to schools and/or churches. Hefty fines for violating the restrictions and control over licensing procedures and restrictions works quite well. Thank you for the vote of agreement ... and I love your beautiful and historic city, been there several times, always enjoy the carriage rides and restaurants. You realize of course that the poster in question is merely playing a petulant game 'for reasons known only to that poster'.
53 posted on 04/27/2003 7:45:20 AM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote Life Support for others.)
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To: dixie sass
You may have a point. Personally, if I were downtown and saw students in bathing suits, I would pass on by and not staring at them. I probably didn't explain it, but what I meant by this being a "hoot" is this is a headline that would make the front page of our newspaper instead of other concerns in the world. I as a former C of C grad, I never paid attention to the sunbathers at Marion Square if there were any back then. While I wouldn't arrest them for it, I think the college needs to caution these students about what they wear because there are young people who are very impressionable. I thank you for your valued input.
54 posted on 04/27/2003 9:52:48 AM PDT by Big Steve (Yakety Yak! Bomb Iraq)
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To: Howlin; Ed_NYC; MonroeDNA; widgysoft; Springman; Timesink; dubyaismypresident; Grani; coug97; ...
"Hold muh beer 'n watch this!" PING....

If you want on or off this list, please let me know!

55 posted on 04/27/2003 9:53:40 AM PDT by mhking
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Sunbathing in a public park where impressionable children are exposed to string bikinis and topless coeds is just not a level of debauchery I will tolerate.

You had better stay clear of every swimming pool, lake and beach in the world. Besides, what are children doing in the park anyway?
56 posted on 04/27/2003 11:55:04 AM PDT by AdA$tra (Tagline maintenance in progress......)
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To: Risa
I agree with you 100%.
The Muslim version of this is, "woemn have to cover themselves entirely in burkhas because we men can't control our thoughts".
57 posted on 04/27/2003 12:02:53 PM PDT by DED (Liberals Never Learn. *LNL*)
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To: Big Steve
If it will help, they can use my yard instead
58 posted on 04/27/2003 12:14:31 PM PDT by paul51
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To: AdA$tra
Do you get your red herring at the same place the mackerel does?
59 posted on 04/27/2003 1:20:10 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote Life Support for others.)
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Do you get your red herring at the same place the mackerel does?

That is such a deep thought you should change your FReep name to Jack Handy.
60 posted on 04/27/2003 3:07:50 PM PDT by AdA$tra (Tagline maintenance in progress......)
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To: paul51
If it will help, they can use my yard instead

There ya go.
61 posted on 04/27/2003 3:10:16 PM PDT by AdA$tra (Tagline maintenance in progress......)
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To: MHGinTN; Big Steve; dixie sass
Not a game MHGinTN. I will try to lay out my complete thoughts on the issue while avoiding inflamatory comments. I hope you can understand where I am coming from and that this changes your thoughts about my character.

I've simply tried to view this, and some of the responses, from a bigger picture perspective. I have been trying to suggest that there are more important matters to get up in arms about. See post #46 from Big Steve. I think his thoughts with respect to the seriousness of the problem is more appropriate and his reaction demonstrates a balanced level of gravity with regards to the situation.

Both of our positions (with Dixie on your side of the fence) share a similar flaw. It is impossible to identify the approriate extreme to which we will allow our position to go before we admit there is a problem with it. While I point out that the slope on your approach can lead to Burkhas and Public Executions, I have to admit that the slope on my view can lead to society becoming completely unglued and morally bankrupt.

I honestly don't know how to reconcile this. I'm conflicted in that a libertarian philosophical approach seems the best way to protect us from the PC crowd itself, but it allows those things that I personally feel are bad for individuals or society as a whole. This is why I bristle when I am accused of wanting the very things I don't personally approve of, yet still question using too much government to control them.

I hope you can understand this.

Big Steve's suggestion regarding what to do about the problem is more reasonable, from my perspective. I personally don't like using police, courts and other valuable resources to satisfy specific individuals when other, more serious affronts to a decent, civilized society are taking place.

People can reason with one another and society can pressure its members to do the right thing. This never leads to perfection, because everybody has different ideas of what perfection would be. Some societies employ morality police to achieve the level of "decency" that dictatorial rulers and their lynch mobs deem appropriate. I don't want us to become Afghanistan, or even Singapore, in terms of imposing too much rule from the top. Unfortunately, my argument is a slippery slope argument which may seem invalid when one remains focused on a specific narrow issue.

I prefer to deal with things I don't like in a less aggressive fashion, avoiding the use of "law" if you will, in order to preserve our freedom. I fear that one day, I may not care for those things deemed appropriate by a different set of rulers and that those rulers may restrict my ability to engage in those things that I do deem appropriate, like going to church, praying, raising my kids in a particular way, etc.

I guess that I fear Hillary's village more than I fear sunbathers at this particular point in time.

62 posted on 04/27/2003 3:56:53 PM PDT by bluefish
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To: Big Steve
Hey! I went to C of C too --- way back when '79-'83. Been in Idaho for the past 12 years:-(
63 posted on 04/27/2003 5:01:46 PM PDT by Remember Ruby Ridge (Life's a journey, not a destination. Steven Tyler _ Aerosmith)
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To: bluefish
You have laid out a very good argument about the need for responsible citizenship instead of censorship. Instead of passing more laws, let an organization or a school be made aware of certain situations and see if they can handle it in a reasonable manner. I don't like new laws being passed because I do fear government intrusion, but I do believe some citizens do need to be made aware of their behavior in public because it may not reflect well on the institutions they claim to represent. It could lead to moral chaos. While I may have led some posters here to believe I support students' rights to wear bathing suits, I don't. I just don't like governement always involved. We don't need censorship, we need citizenship. I don't want a Taliban or Singapore view of society, but I do think citizens need to act more responsibilty behaviorwise in all aspects. Thanks for your input.
64 posted on 04/27/2003 6:28:48 PM PDT by Big Steve (Yakety Yak! Bomb Iraq)
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To: Remember Ruby Ridge
Glad to see a fellow C of C grad as a fellow Freeper.
65 posted on 04/27/2003 6:30:51 PM PDT by Big Steve (Yakety Yak! Bomb Iraq)
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To: Big Steve
Very cool. It's a small world:-)
66 posted on 04/27/2003 11:19:35 PM PDT by Remember Ruby Ridge (Life's a journey, not a destination. Steven Tyler _ Aerosmith)
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To: Big Steve
"Hurrah! Hurrah! For the sunny South so dear,
Three cheers for the homespun dress that southern ladies wear..."
67 posted on 04/28/2003 6:09:56 AM PDT by SquirrelKing ("Beware the barrenness of a busy life." - Socrates)
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