KELOWNA - A Kelowna man says RCMP, anxious to keep a lid on the party scene at Mushroom Beach, arbitrarily arrested him for public nudity after walking by ignoring the sunbathers many times before.
Mushroom Beach is the nickname for what the city calls the Lake Avenue beach access and has become increasingly popular with young people in the summer.
Apollo Agua says he’s been naked at the beach at least a dozen times before and was ignored by Kelowna RCMP and bylaw officers, who make frequent trips on foot and on bike through the area since it became a hot spot a few years back.
“The crowd at this beach in particular is unique; drum circles, hoola-hooping, fire spinning and nudity are all regular sights at Mushroom Beach,” Agua says. “Bylaw and RCMP have come by many times in the past weeks and didn’t make any indication for anyone to cover up so as far as I understood, it was fine.”
According to Aqua, he arrived early at the beach early that morning and laid out his blanket as he has many times before, stripping off completely once he lay down. While it’s legal in Canada for anyone to be topless, exposing your genitals is a different matter.
"I heard someone approach saying 'time to put some shorts on'. I looked up and looked around to see two police officers standing in front of me. I ask if there's a problem. He says it’s illegal to be naked and to cover myself up or they are taking me to the station,” Aqua says. “I do what they ask and put on a kilt-like skirt, which I tie around me waist.”
That’s when it went wrong for the Aqua, a delivery driver for a local bakery with no criminal record.
“Not good enough by my standards, the one officer says and both of them grab me and put me into cuffs. Before I realize what’s going on, I’m being taken to the to the police station with the handcuffs cutting off my circulation,” he says.
When he was released later that afternoon, Aqua says the arresting officer asked him why a nice guy like him resisted when confronted by police.
“I told him I am a good guy and being naked is not a real crime and that they should be creating peace instead of enforcing unjust laws, creating pain and wasting precious time.”
Aqua is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 27 charged with public nudity and obstruction of a police officer.
“The cuffs were uncomfortable the way they put them on, so while I was in the back of the police car, I just passed my arms under legs to the front. The arresting officer said that somehow tampered with the investigation.”
Greg Wise, bylaw services manager for the City of Kelowna, says his staff and Kelowna RCMP are well aware of Mushroom Beach and confirmed they both make frequent passes through the area.
“It’s a well known problem location so the downtown enforcement unit and our officers are always on the lookout for violations,” he says.
Wise could not immediately provide the number of bylaw infractions connected to the area but said the typical violations are for open liquor, smoking and drug paraphenalia.
“That scene has been developing for the last few years. It’s popular and we certainly give it enforcement attention and will continue to do so,” he says.
However, Wise says the City has no bylaw against public nudity and would not respond to complaints of that nature.
“That is handled by the RCMP, you would have to ask them.”
Kelowna RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
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