Asheville, NC - Female activists for gender equality bared their breasts - and ask men to cover theirs - Sunday in Pack Square Park downtown.
The women protested what they consider unfair laws and social stigmas restricting women's right to go topless. The protest is one of many across the nation organized by GoTopless.org, a U.K.-based website.
"We just want to raise awareness about this inequality," said Livienne Love, the local protest organizer. "I know that women may be uncomfortable doing this, and that's part of the issue."
While they may be uncomfortable, they won't be breaking the law, according to Police Department spokesman Wally Welch. "They can breast away," said Lt. Welch. "It's not a crime."
Click here to see photos from the protest.
The North Carolina statute that covers indecent exposure bans the exposure of "private parts," specifically "external organs of sex or excretion." That only covers body parts below the waist, Welch said.
The event was held Sunday, August 21 1 p.m. Women and men turned out shirtless, with men wearing bras. Protestors had asked men to appear shirtless, but wear either a bra or a bikini top.
According to the GoTopless.org website, "As long as men can go topless, women should have the same constitutional right, or men should also be forced to wear something that hides their chests."
The biggest flap from the event may arise from its timing - Gateway Christian Community Church will also be in the park Sunday conducting its regular services, according to Jon Fillman, who coordinates outdoor special events for the city.
He allowed that it "could be an interesting combination of people."
The topless group most likely will gather near the Vance Monument, while the church has reserved the Roger McGuire Green near the Buncombe County Courthouse and Asehville City Hall.
"They'll be some distance apart, and the church said, if necessary, they'll completely turn their event so they're facing the other direction," Fillman said.
Fillman said he was contacted about the topless protest, but the group did not seek a permit.
For gatherings considered free-speech expression, a permit is not required.
Welch said he's not aware of the Police Department issuing or attempting to issue citations in the past for exposed breasts.
"It's kind of rare anyway," Welch said.
"You see it from time to time, but less so as a political statement and more as part of a drunken stupor," he said..
Somebody's at Bele Chere or at a party and they want to show the world whatever they've got."
Women Topless In Public Debate, Coverage by Asheville Citizen-Times:
-- Women Topless in Public Debate
-- Photos from the protest