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New Jersey Town Passes “No Saggy Pants” Law, Prompting Other Towns – Activists Plan Demonstration
by Ezra Van Auken
Pull those pants up or get fined. Wildwood, New Jersey is the latest town to pass a city law making it an offense to wear overly baggy or sagging pants. The Mayor, Ernest Troiano Jr. passed the saggy pants law due to the number of people complaining about unhappy families witnessing cracks and boxers. Specifically, the law would be violated if your pants were three inches under your waist; other provisions include the prohibition of going shirtless as well as barefoot.
Certainly though, the saggy pants ordinance has caught the attention of media outlets around the country. Mayor Troiano explained, “When you have good families who call you up and say, ‘I’ve been coming here 20 years, 30 years, 40 years and I’m not going to any longer because I’m not going to subject my children or my parents or grandparents to seeing some kid walk down the boardwalk with their butt hanging out,’ you have to do something,” going on to simply say he didn’t want to “see it”.
If violated, the saggy pants wearer could pay anywhere from $25 to $100 in fines with the possibility of community service, which would total 40 hours. Mayor Troiano, who believes the signed law would pass in a court ruling, reassured the battle over constitutionality of this sag ordinance. “Troiano said the city’s legal department has reviewed the proposed law and is confident it will withstand a court challenge,” the Associated Press reported. Before a court ruling, Troiano will see other resistance – civil disobedience.
A second saggy pants offense would carry a $200 fine.
Believing the saggy pants law is a direct and clear violation of individual rights, the New Jersey Libertarian Party along with independent activists have decided to organize. On July 5th activists will meet at Fox Park to assemble with saggy attire showing law enforcement they will not comply with what is believed to be an unjust law. From Fox Park to city hall is where demonstrators plan to finish off the protest, hoping to have signaled a fine line in the sand with city officials.
The activist page says, “It is not the government’s business to dictate fashion.”
Chair of the Libertarian Party, Jay Edgar told SLN, “If government can dictate how we can dress is there anything that they can not dictate? This is a clear violation of the freedom of expression that is enumerated in the First Amendment. A law that purposely picks out a certain group of people is especially egregious.” Edgar also explained that city officials are using bullying tactics to impose their way of living on other individuals, which Edgar believes doesn’t follow the Constitution.
For civil liberties advocates and activists, the fight for saggy pants might have to extend itself elsewhere. Last Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun reported that Ocean City, Maryland’s council has adopted similar ideas that would be discussed in the coming days – regarding fashion. Town councilman Brent Ashley has proposed the same basic law of no saggy pants and no shirtless beach-goers on the boardwalk – with the threat of a $25 fine.
SLN contacted Ashley, asking, “Do you have anything in mind for a penalty as of right now?” Ashley said, “I think we would probably do something like what Wildwood has done where the person would first be asked to pull up their pants and if they refuse then a fine system would be implemented.” To understand Ashley’s position on what civil liberties activists say is a violation of human rights, SLN asked, “Do you think in any way this would violate what people have to freely express themselves?” The Ocean City councilman explained, “No I don’t think so at all, how about my rights not to look at that, how about the family’s rights not to look at that, the kid’s rights not to look at that.”
As Ashley insisted that sagging pants indicated thug mentality, SLN then asked, “What relevance would the pants hanging have to do with crime?” Councilman Ashley said, “If you dress that mentality, you act that mentality then you probably are that mentality.” After asking for clarity if sagging pants correlates to crime, Ashley responded, “Very possibly.”
Lastly, SLN asked Ashley if the new ordinance would affect other legitimate crimes from being stopped such as robbery, fights and any other altercations – considering the resources and time used debating and fining individuals with pants as opposed to violent crimes. Ashley didn’t answer the question, saying the law was an image situation for families.
Other proponents who believe in less governance and more freedom have brought up the idea that instead of government enforcement on the people, businesses could collaborate to not allow anyone in their stores who have saggy pants, avoiding government confrontation towards “no victim, no crime” laws while still addressing the uncomfortable problem.