Complaints have been filed with authorities in Asheville, N.C., over the annual “Go Topless Day,” which was held in a number of cities across the nation Sunday.
At the rallies Aug. 26, women stripped to the waist to protest “unequal rights” that allow men to be bare-chested but not women.
The complaints were brought by former Asheville vice-mayor and clinical psychologist Carl Mumpower and former Republican County Party Chair Chad Nesbitt.
Jeff Johnson, the general manager of his wife’s pediatric practice in Huntsville, Ala., and the sponsor of the event, insisted nothing illegal occurred, and the women were simply exercising their constitutional rights.
Johnson likened the baring of women’s breasts in public to the civil rights movement and condemned the city council and Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy for issuing a letter urging families and children to stay away from the event.
“Apparently the mayor has forgotten 1964 and the Civil Rights movement,” Johnson said. “As a matter of fact, that is why she is the mayor here and doesn’t have to sit in the back of the bus, because of those civil rights. We’re invoking those civil rights.”
But a video has been posted on YouTube showing a man picking up a partially nude woman and sucking her breasts.
Another image turned up clearly showing a man with his hand on a topless woman’s breasts.
Nesbitt and Mumpower send an email to Lt. Sean Pound of the Asheville Police Department explaining that they received a photo of “a gentleman at the event touching the breast of one of the performers.”
“It is our understanding those are two police officers in the background,” they said, noting the photo was posted until recently on the website of Mountain Xpress, an independent newspaper in Asheville.
“As you know touching an exposed breast is against the law in strip joints – may we safely assume it is also against the law in a public park?” they asked.
Viewers must log in and verify their age to see the YouTube video. The image from the Mountain Xpress site cannot be reproduced or linked here.
The complaint explains the “officers on duty failed to arrest a gentleman who, at one point in the event, made oral connection with a woman’s exposed breast and nipple.”
The complaint also noted that minors were present and that it was unlikely the man needed to be breast-fed in public, which is legal under the law.
“He was above the age of one who might be seeking nutritional support.”
Several women present also had their breasts painted with the words “The warship Christ,” a reference to a local punk rock band.
Richard Bernier, who was present at both last year’s event as well as this year’s, said the attendance was significantly less than last year, by as much as 90 percent.
“It was nothing like last year, I think part of it had to do with the city council issuing a letter basically telling people not to go to the event,” he said. “Others undoubtedly stayed away because they didn’t want to be photographed and have videos of them posted all over the Internet.”
This year, Mumpower and Nesbitt sponsored a photo contest in an attempt to shame parents into keeping their children at home that day.
The contest offered a $200 prize for several categories, including most degrading moment for women, most degrading example of public sexual performance and most degrading example of child abuse.
The London Daily Mail also reported while there were hundreds of gawkers, there were only about a dozen participants. However, by contrast, Mumpower says there were 14 police officers present, including a visit by the police chief.
WND reported last year Mumpower and others produced photographic evidence that the law was violated, 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 who stripped nude to the waist.
“This year, we had more police officers present than there were protesters, yet they either did not notice this incident, they were either asleep, indifferent or something. Cameras don’t lie,” Mumpower said.
A YouTube video posted by Bernier was taken down for violating the website’s decency standards, and his account was threatened with suspension if he posted a similar video in the next six months.
“They told me my video of the event did not meet community standards and they removed it,” Bernier said. “They then sent me a letter saying I would have my account suspended if I posted a similar video in the next six months. That is a real concern because I currently have over 300 videos up on the site.”
Johnson said he was pleased with the event and hopes to host another one next year.
Despite being in the Bible Belt, Asheville 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.”
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.”
Following last year’s event, Mumpower and others filed a child abuse complaint that stated among other things that the 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 then.