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Officials in Asheville, N.C., are allowing plans for a nude-fest to go forward in the Bible belt city this weekend, even though local residents have been fighting the event’s activities as a violation of state law.
Last year, WND reported on how the organization Go Topless conducted a public rally in Asheville that featured topless women engaged in sexually suggestive positions in the presence of children. Despite such public displays being prohibited by state statute, authorities did nothing to prevent the displays.
The pro-nudity organization, sponsored by an off-shoot religious group founded by a man, has announced that it intends to repeat the events of last year in the city on Aug. 26.
Despite being in the Bible belt, Ashville is considered to be one of the most liberal cities in America and has been called the “east-coast San Francisco” and the “Paris of the South.” The local Chamber of Commerce slogan is, “Asheville – Any way you like it.”
In an attempt to prevent a repeat of last year’s displays in the presence of children, a local group, GoBrainless.org, headed by former Asheville vice-mayor and clinical psychologist Carl Mumpower along with former Republican County Party Chair Chad Nesbitt, has been fighting to stop the event.
The two passed a resolution along to the city council supporting an ordinance that would prohibit organized topless events on public property.
The resolution notes that while North Carolina laws permit women’s breasts to be exposed in public in limited circumstances such as breast-feeding an infant, it draws the line at sexually suggestive displays.
The current applicable law states that anyone over 18 “who shall willfully expose the private parts of his or her person in any public place in the presence of any other person less than 16 years of age for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire shall be guilty of a Class H felony.”
“We have fought this every step of the way including asking the county commissioners, mayor, city council members and even the local school board to support the resolution and ordinance, but we were either told ‘no’ or faced resistance from all of them,” Mumford said.
“The proposed ordinance would allow women to appear topless in public, which is allowed under existing law, but would not allow them to stage any type of topless rally,” Mumpower said. “We find that a lot of cities in North Carolina have these types of ordinances.”
Mumpower said they have also challenged the permitting process for the group.
“We challenged the city for not charging Go Topless for parking, traffic management and security arrangements despite the city ordinance clearly saying they should pay for these services.”
Mumpower and others produced photographic evidence that the law was in fact violated at last year’s event, including pictures showing children as young as 3 or 4 years old watching the nude-fest. Some evidence also suggested that underage girls were among the exhibitionists that stripped nude to the waist.
This year, Mumpower and Nesbitt are sponsoring a photo contest in an attempt to shame parents into keeping their children at home that day.
“Our mission is to create as much awkwardness and embarrassment for these people as possible,” Mumpower said. “We hope that men will be less inclined to go knowing they are going to be photographed and displayed on the Internet.”
The contest offers a $200 prize for several categories including most degrading event moment for women, most degrading example of public sexual performance and most degrading example of child abuse.
Nadine Gary, Go Topless president and spokeswoman, said she takes issue with those who say the display of women’s breast is sexual in nature.
“It is Mr. Mumpower and the other opposing conservatives who are trying to turn our event into something blatantly sexual when it’s not,” Gary said. “This is exactly the point we’re trying to make by having the demonstration. Women are currently forced to hide their breasts because men like Mr. Mumpower can’t look at them without thinking of something sexual.”
Following last year’s event, Mumpower and other’s filed a child abuse complaint that stated among other things that city supported the event by allowing it on public property but failed to enforce the law, despite activities that were clearly illegal.
“Event organizers allowed underage teens to directly participate in the event – including displaying their breasts to public and peer review,” the complaint stated. “Children were in broad attendance at the event and directly observed festive, suggestive, and indiscrete sexual behavior by the adult participants.”
Lt. Wally Welch with the Asheville Police Department said that despite the photographs showing underage children being present, officers saw no sign of any children participating in the events. “None of the officers that monitored that particular event took notice of anyone underage participating,” Welch said.
WND requests for comment to the Asheville police department and city hall for comment were not returned.
Mumpower and Nesbitt have even reached out to state authorities and the FBI, attempting to get them involved. “The FBI told us they were bothered by what they saw. You can’t argue with pictures.”
Nesbitt said on Wednesday, FBI agent Brian Hallman called him stating they were taking a hands off approach to the event.
“He said that everything is coming down from the city attorney’s office and that if any laws were broken that the police department would enforce them,” Nesbitt said. “Hallman said the chief told him the district attorney, Ashville Police Department and the city attorney had met in a meeting about the event.”
Mumpower said despite their assurances, he is skeptical local police will follow through on their promise to uphold the law.
“What is troubling is that local authorities continue to hide behind the law saying a woman can display their breasts publicly, while ignoring the law prohibiting sexual performances in public spaces and in front of minors,” Mumpower lamented. “We can’t get the local authorities to address the real issues. They have bought into the lie that nothing bad happened last year and are fearful of acknowledging it could happen again.”