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BRATTLEBORO — July 4 festivities broke from the norm Monday morning when a naked man doused in fake blood joined in the holiday parade through the downtown, protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The naked man was Ivan Hennessy of Brattleboro. At a few minutes before 10 a.m., Hennessy wrote to the Reformer and other media about his plan.

“Shortly after I send this email, I intend to undress, douse myself in fake blood and walk from the Brattleboro Common to Plaza Park. I cannot tolerate my own inaction any longer in the face of the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” Hennessy wrote. “The Supreme Court’s rejection of medical privacy and bodily autonomy is not the only terrible injustice I’ve seen our government embrace. It is not unique in the magnitude of suffering it brings. But, my own inaction has become unbearable.”

He calls forced birth “appallingly cruel and morally grotesque.” He says “modest steps, alone, in our local communities” are crucial.

“I hope that this small, but visible, gesture encourages others who have hesitated to act beyond voting and writing to legislators,” writes Hennessy.

Some in attendance at the parade were wishing that Hennessy had been more modest in his own approach.

“It’s so gross,” said Jessica Doleszny of Brattleboro. “We’re at a family event. There’s been some things in this country that have made everyone very divided. For all of us to get together and celebrate a holiday like this with somebody nude and covered in blood? It’s not appropriate for children.”

“Highly inappropriate,” said former Select Board member Dick DeGray. DeGray noted that he was on the board when they created the current municipal law covering public nudity. “I thought he should’ve been arrested. Case closed.”

Parent Zara Bode of Brattleboro was glad that some form of radical protest happened at the event, which Hennessy did, walking in silence.

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“Even though nothing was specifically stated, something that gets people to think outside the box, I would say he did that sufficiently,” said Bode.

Hennessy is the great-grandson of famed Catholic activist Dorothy Day.

Meanwhile, the Brattleboro Police told the Reformer that public nudity is more akin to a traffic ticket, a minor municipal offense, and opted to treat Hennessy that way, rather than making a scene.

“We didn’t want to turn a ticket into an event,” said Detective Jeremy Evans.

Evans said the department was disappointed it happened.

“We had two departments to handle traffic and didn’t have the extra people to cover up the naked man,” Evans told the Reformer.

He said he appreciated that the crowds generally respected differing opinions and that no one in the crowd confronted the naked man.

After the parade, Hennessy said, “I know that some people responded positively and some negatively, but I was not in a position to get a more nuanced view.”

He said he had no interactions with police.


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