NORTH PALM BEACH --Tossing aside their signs -- No Iraq War -- and then their shorts, T-shirts and bikinis, 23 protesters lay in the sand to form a peace symbol at the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
"Being nude is being vulnerable, and that's the message of peace," T.A. Wyner said Friday.
Wyner, a veteran Fort Pierce naturist, helped organize the Living Nude Peace Sign. On Thursday, a U.S. District court ruled that the nude protest was legal at the public beach.
Claudia Kellersch, of San Diego, Calif., holds hands while standing nude in a circle during a peace rally that included a "Living Nude Peace Sign" at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park on Singer Island on Friday. (AP/Rick Silva)
Park rangers watched impassively from a couple of hundred yards away as Wyner built the peace symbol with bare bodies in the rough sand. Park employees spent 90 minutes Friday morning putting up a U-shaped screen to shield other beach visitors from the protesters, but Wyner purposely positioned the peace symbol, which included 15 men and eight women, on the open beach.
"This demonstration has now become not only anti-war," she said, "but free speech rights, too. Today we celebrate the First Amendment."
The Valentine's Day protest was a field trip for nudists attending the four-day Mid-Winter Naturist Festival at the Sunsport Gardens Nudist Resort in Loxahatchee. About 350 naturists from around North America are at the annual gathering, which ends Tuesday.
"This protest is important," said Morley Schloss, one of Sunsport's owners and a peace symbol participant. "I think this protest is cumulative with all the others and will do some good because most people around the world are opposed to a war only to get our hands on the second largest oil supply."
The protesters created two versions of a peace sign. Surrounded by TV and newspaper photographers, they were face up for European papers and face down for U.S. papers.
Larry Fassalino, vacationing from Long Island, happened upon the protest by accident and decided to strip for the anti-war cause.
"Hey, I never got naked before in public," said the 46-year-old contractor, "but I just had to do it. I agree with them. And this is still the best country in the world because we get to do this."
Jim Skinner, vacationing from New Hampshire, went to the protest with his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Jessica. But the Vietnam veteran, who's a naturist vacationing at Sunsport Gardens, didn't become part of the peace symbol.
"I could not do that to our troops," he said, "but I came to support my wife and daughter's right to do it."
Jessica, 24, a Chino, Calif., art teacher, was the youngest protester. "It's my generation that's going to war," she said. "Maybe if people see this in their community, maybe they'll realize the war isn't a good idea."
The nude protesters were all proud to make a statement they hope will be seen on the Internet and in newspapers around the world.
"I just wish I didn't have such a big gut," lamented Fassalino, the accidental nudist.
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