After a substantial effort conducted by the University and the Ann Arbor Police Department, this year”s Naked Mile drew far fewer participants and spectators than it had in previous years, leaving the future of the annual event in question.
Only “a couple dozen runners actually ran,” Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said. Estimates from last year pegged the number of runners at 400, while about 800 students participated two years ago.
The number of spectators also dwindled to about 7,000, down from the estimated 10,000 audience members that came for last year”s run, Brown said.
The AAPD arrested a total of four people for indecent exposure and four others for disorderly conduct. DPS also made one arrest for indecent exposure, one for a minor in possession of alcohol, one for interfering with an arrest, and one for possession of marijuana. Though Brown said she was not aware of any incidents being reported, the Ann Arbor News reported a sexual assault was filed.
AAPD Sgt. Michael Logghe was unavailable for comment today.
“We are also going to be seeking warrants for four other folks that may include indecent exposure,” DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said.
In addition to the increased number of arrests, police officials also escalated efforts to prevent students from participating in the Naked Mile.
Around 11:50 p.m., one participant tangled with an AAPD officer who attempted to prevent him from continuing the run.
In protest, the surrounding crowd began chanting obscenities and approximately 100 students organized an impromptu sit-down in the middle of South University Avenue, clogging the street.
The officer managed to put the runner in a squad car.
The sit-down inspired LSA freshman Adam Lowenstein, who said he had not anticipated running, to strip down to his shoes and sprint off.
Lowenstein said he was approached by a police officer before he reached the end of the route.
“He said, “If you don”t put on your underwear” which I was holding “you”re going to get arrested,” Lowenstein said. “I put on my underwear.”
LSA sophomore Michael Simon, chair of the Michigan Student Assembly”s Student”s Rights Commission, said student volunteers did not predict this year”s event would be as problematic.
Simon, who supported the sit-down, said police actions were overly forceful.
“Things went 100 times worse than we thought they would,” he said. “The reactions of the crowd to these arrests were really strong. I was just completely shocked and outraged. (the runners) were not hurting anyone.”
Police officers were able to persuade most students to put their clothes back on by informing runners of possible consequences.
Engineering senior Adam Ludwig said AAPD officers prevented him from fully completing the run but said he”d had “the experience of a lifetime.”
Ludwig, who was intercepted near the intersection of Tappan and South University said, “I tried to put a spin move on them we got by a lot of cops for a while.”
“The cops acted pretty civilly,” he added.
Along the route, sporadic groups of students attempted to take their clothes off and run. Officers confronted them while they were in the process of disrobing and persuaded them not to run.
Of the students who ran, few succeeded in reaching the Regents Plaza Cube, the traditional finish line of the Naked Mile.
“(The police) stopped us immediately at the Cube,” said LSA junior Brian Gillwreth, catching his breath after he donned his clothes.
The event attracted spectators as well as participants from outside Ann Arbor.
One Grand Valley State University senior said he came to Ann Arbor to participate in the event because Grand Valley doesn”t have anything like it.
“We really need to start something like this at Grand Valley. The west side is way too boring,” he said. “My dad”s advice to me before I left was “don”t get arrested.””
Officers stopped the student before he could begin running.
A Troy resident came to watch the Naked Mile for the second year to “see naked chics,” but admitted “this time was pretty lame.” He said he planned to watch the video footage he recorded and give copies to friends.
Although being on videotape wasn”t a concern to the crowd or runners, most students said they were disappointed the event has gained so much national attention.
“I don”t want to be on the Internet, but if I end up there, then oh well,” said Engineering junior Jeff Mlaker while waiting for the run to begin.
Mlaker later attempted to participate but was stopped.
“There weren”t that many people and it”s too bad it go so popular outside of the students,” said LSA sophomore Josh Zorger. “A few people made it through. Not as many people as before, but it”s still cool to have the whole campus out.”
Zorger said that despite the lack of runners at this year”s event, he believes the Mile will go on.
“I”ll do it maybe in two more years, when I”m a senior maybe. I think it would be fun. It would be a trip,” he said.
Although some students were not especially appreciative of the presence of officers during the run hundreds of crowd members continuously yelled obscenities others recognized the need for police.
“I don”t blame the police,” said Engineering senior Amanda Esquivel. “I blame the media and the perverts.”
Students said they refrained from stripping and streaking for a variety of reasons.
“It”s too cold, and I lost my Nixon mask,” said LSA senior Vince Mysliwiec, who, in a previous Naked Mile, disguised himself as the former president.
Brown cautioned against accepting the chilly temperatures as a reason why students decided to remain bundled up. “If hundreds of students ran when it was snowing, I have a hard time believing (that the cold weather played a factor),” she said, referring to a frigid Naked Mile in a previous year.
“I do think that the awareness campaigns are making a difference,” Brown said. “I also think that the significant police presence made a difference.”
Student volunteers were on hand to keep the crowd under control, sometimes clearing a path for runners to follow.
“We just want to make sure that the people will avoid molestation and just enjoy their jog,” said Kinesiology senior Jeremy Miller.
The Naked Mile afforded businesses along the Naked Mile route a chance to offer patrons a warm place from which to view the event. Cava Java on South University Avenue served a crowd four to six times larger than that of an average Tuesday night, estimated employee Ben Julian, an LSA senior.
The Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library and the Harold Shapiro Undergraduate Library closed their front entrances from 10 p.m. to midnight as a precaution. The south entrance to the graduate library was open. “We”re just doing that to protect the safety of the patrons,” said a library employee. “If you want to use the library you have to have clothes on.”