Placards, kilts part of plans for scanner protests

Michael Tarm
Associated Press

CHICAGO – Travelers dismayed by airport body scans are headed to airports Wednesday with the makings of any good protest: handmade fliers, eye-catching placards, slogan-bearing T-shirts — and Scottish kilts.

The loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day hopes to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings. Others fear it will merely snarl pre-Thanksgiving airline operations on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Robert Shofkom wasn’t worried about delayed flights, maybe just strong breezes.

The 43-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, said he planned for weeks to wear a traditional kilt — sans skivvies — to display his outrage over body scanners and aggressive pat-downs while catching his Wednesday flight out of Austin.

“If you give them an inch, they won’t just take in inch. Pretty soon you’re getting scanned to get into a football game,” the IT specialist said.

Shofkom was momentarily disheartened when his wife informed him Tuesday that the Austin airport doesn’t yet have body scans. But he decided to wear the kilt anyway, a show of solidarity with fellow protesters who have taken to Facebook and other websites to tout plans for similarly revealing travel outfits.

One Internet-based protest group called We Won’t Fly said hundreds of activists would go to 27 U.S. airports Wednesday to pass out fliers with messages such as “You have the right to say, `No radiation strip search! No groping of genitals!’ Say, `I opt out.'”

“If 99 percent of people normally agree to go through scanners, we hope that falls to 95 percent,” said one organizer, George Donnelly, 39. “That would make it a success.”

If enough people opt for a pat-down rather than a body scan, security-line delays could quickly cascade.

More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with just more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 percent increase from last year. Body scans for passengers chosen at random take as little as 10 seconds. New pat-down procedures, which involve a security worker touching travelers’ crotch and chest areas, can take 4 minutes or longer.

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