Very Veronica: Unclothed Occupy protester explains why
The woman whose nude protest and arrest sparked questions in the final moments of the Occupy Charlottesville encampment says she's a little surprised by the attention but definitely not regretful. While over 7,000 online viewers may know her as "the naked lady," she is a 33-year-old freelance author/editor named Veronica Fitzhugh, and she says she did indeed have a mission when she disrobed November 30 to give a public reading.
The mission began with what she read: the Declaration of Occupy Wall Street. Organized like the Declaration of Independence, the document lays out a litany of alleged offenses and injustices recently practiced by too-powerful corporations including a practical take-over of American government.
As for the nudity, that too had a point.
"I felt that nude protest is a blend of vulnerability and empowerment; and, quintessentially, that is the basis of most passive resistance," says Fitzhugh. "Also: the idea of being completely exposed, which can be considered an extremely weak position, while having something strong to say."
Her gesture won respect from the man whose name that night was angrily spat by some of her fellow colleagues for not allowing the protest to continue. While some anonymous online commenters made derisive statements, Mayor Dave Norris offered appreciation.
"In a night that otherwise went totally according to script," Norris wrote to Fitzhugh on Facebook, "I think yours was quite possibly the only unscripted moment. And what a moment it was!"
Fitzhugh is no stranger to making potentially cryptic gestures. On Veterans Day, she covered her mouth with duct tape and held a thick wooden beam while standing amid magazine advertisements touting instant self-helps. This journalist was among those confused by her silent protest on Market Street, which we photographed and dubbed "Silent sentry" as an online "Snap o' the Day."
"I'm okay that most people didn't get that," says Fitzhugh, who says she was actually portraying martyred French warrior Joan of Arc.
Fitzhugh says she had to leave the Occupy encampment in Lee Park for several days after she developed a case of pneumonia, but returned in time for the ouster. And although she disagrees with her arrest for trespassing and for an alleged "indecent exposure," this former mental health worker with Offender Aid and Restoration says she appreciates police work and even took a moment to shake hands with the arresting officer.
"I have a lot of respect for law and order," says Fitzhugh, "to the point that I want to create more just laws."
Toward that end, Fitzhugh plans to fight the charges in Charlottesville General District on January 27.
–story updated with new court date (replaces original court date of December 16)