Missouri group hangs by hooks for fun, neighbor objects

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Springfield group that meets monthly to hang in the air from hooks threaded under their skin is looking for an indoor venue for their pastime, after a neighbor objected because the group was hanging from a tree within sight of his house.

The Anti-Gravity Relaxation Organization of Springfield has been meeting monthly since August at a home of one of the members. They hang by hooks threaded under the skin of their backs and knees from a tree in the home's yard.

That's not far from where Aaron King lives with his family, including two young children. He says he doesn't want the group to be banned, but he thinks they should hold their suspensions someplace where others can't see them, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://bit.ly/ppdbuu) .

"My concern ... is that I don't think anyone should be forced into a situation where they have to view this activity, or keep their kids inside so they don't see it," said King.

He has discovered that there is no local or state regulation to stop AGRO from practicing body suspension in public. He's been told that if the group isn't charging for the activity, it isn't required to be licensed.

"I'm not trying to stop them from doing it, or stop people from watching by choice," he said. "I'm just concerned about where it's allowed to happen, really."

A co-founder of the group, Shane Shields, acknowledges that body suspension isn't for everyone.

"There is pain involved with it, but the pain's really not as bad as it appears," he said. "For some people it's very spiritual, for others it's just something that's fun."

King contacted Springfield councilman Nick Ibarra, who has asked the city law department to draft an ordinance addressing the practice.

"There is a delicate balance of property rights here," he said, noting that he doesn't want to infringe on tattoo or piercing businesses or dictate what AGRO members can do in their backyard. "At the same time they're doing it in full view of all their neighbors."

Ibarra said he hopes the ordinance, which will be modeled after one from Anoka, Minn., will ensure health and safety standards while balancing the interests of all involved.

"If they don't mind doing it inside a private residence or business, I don't think there will be any problem with what I want to do," said Ibarra. He worries complaints could move "from neighborhood to neighborhood" if outdoor suspensions continue.

Shields said AGRO's members are willing to make some concessions but he doesn't think outdoor suspensions should be totally banned.

"(King) had never come over to talk to us about it," he said, adding that the first the group knew of the complaint was when a police officer showed up at an Oct. 1 gathering. "Had we known there was any kind of issue ... we would have had no problem taking it down for the day."

Shields said the group is looking for an indoor venue to hold its monthly meetings.

He said the group isn't opposed to regulation "whatsoever when it comes to the piercing side of it and the rigging side of it."

"We are totally fine with that because this is something you can get hurt doing, especially if it's not done properly."

Shields said the group plans to check with neighbors before selecting any future sites for outdoor meetings, but he thinks that should remain an option.

"We're not out there to upset anybody or anything like that, but we do like doing it outside and we're not hurting anybody," he said. "At the same time, we understand it's something people don't see every day."


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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