The scantily clad protesters at 72nd and Dodge Streets on Saturday evening don’t appear to have done anything illegal, Omaha’s city prosecutor says.
Matt Kuhse reviewed both state law and city ordinances and said he could not find one that could be applied in this instance.
“Nothing really in our statutes or in our ordinances fits within what was going on,” Kuhse said.
Police responded about 6 p.m. to investigate a report of indecent exposure. Officers discovered several women wearing bikini bottoms and pasties covering their nipples.
The group was from nearby Club Omaha, 7301 Farnam St., which offers nude dancing. They were protesting a new state law requiring bottle clubs to obtain liquor licenses and a judge’s decision that found the law applies to the club. Bottle clubs are businesses that allow patrons to bring their own alcohol. The new law gives the state the authority to require liquor licenses for bottle clubs.
A video on Club Omaha’s website shows much of the protest. The nearly naked dancers stand on the southwest corner of the intersection, wearing flesh-colored bikini bottoms and pasties.
The women hold signs that say, “Honk if you (heart) boobs” on one side and the club’s logo on the other. Passing horns sound. The women yell, smile and wave back.
The video is narrated by club owner Shane Harrington, who was also there. It occasionally shows him as well. He is shirtless.
After a police officer tells Harrington that citations are possible, he leads the dancers back to the club.
City ordinances and state laws against indecent exposure, public indecency and lewd conduct didn’t apply because, among other things, genitals weren’t exposed, Kuhse said. A law against disturbing the peace doesn’t apply to political protest, he said.
Even if laws weren’t violated, the city will keep an eye on future demonstrations.
“Mr. Harrington’s actions are in extremely poor taste and do not reflect the values of our community,” Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said in a statement. “We will be watching carefully to see if anyone crosses the line.”
Harrington filed a lawsuit against state officials over the new law, but a judge dismissed the suit last week. An attorney for Harrington said he plans to appeal.
At one point during Saturday’s protest, a passing motorist on Dodge seems to shout something disagreeable to Harrington and his almost-unclothed entourage.
“You enjoy hell, we’re going to live in heaven,” Harrington shouts back, on video. “This is heaven right now, baby. We’re living it every day.”