From afar it seemed like a normal Sunday at the downtown Minneapolis park — partners were practicing acrobatic yoga, others spun hula hoops, while many gathered in small groups on the hill.
For the few hundred who braved Sunday’s brisk weather, it was much more.
Women risked arrest by baring their chests at Gold Medal Park Sunday evening in a celebratory declaration that being topless in public should not be a “men only” activity.
Event leader Faith Neumann told the group that it is a “basic human right to go topless.” Then she invited attendees to bare their breasts in unison.
The Minneapolis event coincides with dozens elsewhere around the country Sunday marking the eighth annual “Go Topless Day.” Activists chose this weekend for their bare-breasted campaign as a prelude to National Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26. On that date in 1920, American women won the right to vote with formal adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Several women fully exposed their breasts, despite being cautioned that they risked arrest for a misdemeanor under a somewhat vague state law against indecent exposure. Others wore colorful tape, pasties and stickers. In a show of solidarity, some men wore bikini tops and bras.
“As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional right,” reads the credo on the Minneapolis event’s “Go Topless Minneapolis” Facebook page. “It is time for women to achieve the same rights. Skin is skin.”
John and Claire Butler heard about the event and decided to check it out, saying it reminded them of the 1960s and “the feeling of freedom.”
Neumann said her group had opted for a “normal day in the park” instead of a march to show that “being naked [in public] is not weird.”
“We want people to feel comfortable with themselves and around other people with their shirts off,” said Neumann, a Minnesota State University, Mankato, graduate who intends to study law. “A lot of women will be there who have never done this, and some who have done this in other states.”
Charlotte Jaskier and Erik Olsen drove an hour and a half from Clayton, Wis., to bare their chests and show support.
“There’s no reason that I’m standing next to him [without a shirt] and I’m the one that gets arrested,” Jaskier said. She was wearing black Xs. He was shirtless.
Event organizers anticipated a large police presence, but instead there were a couple of squad cars on the street.
However, in New York, tensions have been running high over a related issued. Critics have complained about topless, body-painted women seeking tips for being photographed in Times Square. Appearing topless is legal in New York, but Mayor Bill de Blasio and others believe the nearly naked women who pose for snapshots with tourists are a nuisance.
But in Minneapolis, 15 people on a Segway tour of the riverfront didn’t pay much attention to the shirtless crew dancing to music from NSYNC and the Weeknd. Nor did the people walking their dogs.
To them, it looked pretty much like a regular Sunday in the park.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.