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Man says naked airport protest was about free speech

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(CNN) — John Brennan says he did not go to the Portland International Airport intending to get naked.

But after feeling harassed by airport screeners Tuesday, the 50-year-old Portland, Oregon, man stripped off his clothes in a protest that brought him even more attention from airport authorities, national headlines and a short stint in jail.

“I just took off my clothes and said ‘See, I don’t have any explosives,'” Brennan told CNN on Wednesday. “The individuals at TSA are just doing their job and the whole organization needs to find a balance between safety and privacy . They use fear and intimidation and it’s got to stop somewhere.”

The Transportation Security Administration had a different take on the incident.

“TSA partners with the traveling public to screen all passengers safely and efficiently. When a passenger chooses to be purposefully disruptive, we notify law enforcement,” the organization said in a statement.

Brennan said he lives in Portland and was traveling to San Jose, California, for business. After he went through the metal detector and was patted down, a screener told him he tested positive for explosives, he said.

Brennan said he felt “humiliated,” and decided to take off all his clothes.

He is no stranger to naked protest as he has participated in a nude bike ride in Portland, he said.

“I am aware that’s a tool I can use for free speech,” he said. “I know that as an Oregonian and as a citizen, one of my ways of expressing myself is being naked. It gets people’s attention.”

And it did.

Police said some passengers shielded their children’s eyes, while others laughed and snapped photos.

TSA officials called police. Brennan was handcuffed and walked back to a holding room while officers draped a blanket on him.

He was taken to a county jail, and now faces charges of disorderly conduct and indecent exposure.

Brennan says it was worth it.

“I’m choosing liberty because my privacy and constitutional liberties are worth fighting for,” he said.