(April 5, 2013) Wearing a costume on the Boardwalk isn’t just for street performers. Activists protesting circumcision appeared in the resort this week, first gathering on the boards near Worcester Street and then at the base of the Route 50 Bridge, confirming that the city may again be facing some of the same First Amendment issues with social activists as it does with street artists.
The protestors, who view the circumcision of infants as an unlawful act of genital mutilation before the child is of the age of consent, have appeared in the resort before. But this year has reportedly been the first in which they’ve worn costumes – white jumpsuits with large bloodstains on the groin.
“They were pretty prevalent last year too, but not in that kind of garb,” said City Clerk Kelly Allmond, whose office received a number of complaints Tuesday from citizens.
However, Allmond said, the right to free speech means that activists may demonstrate freely on public property, as long as they do not present an imminent safety hazard.
“We were a little concerned about them blocking store entrances, but there haven’t been enough of them to prevent you from getting in or out of buildings,” Allmond said.
The city has long faced the same issue with Boardwalk street artists and performers, but has been extremely cautious of the issue since a 2011 lawsuit in which artist Mark Chase, who frequently sets up on the Boardwalk to do spray paint murals, challenged the city’s ability to enforce a permitting program for street performers.
Although Chase won the suit, the city was granted the ability to prohibit performance in certain areas that posed a hazard for fire and crowd control, including several choke points on the Boardwalk. Given the legal ruling, the city is likely to treat protestors and activists in the same way.
Anti-circumcision activism appears to have grown considerably in the U.S. over the past two years, with those involved challenging the long-held belief that the practice is hygienically beneficial. They have also pointed to a double standard in most Western societies where, while male circumcision is considered to be necessary and, in many cases, a sign of religious power, the same procedure to the female apparatus is widely frowned upon.