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GoTopless activist Phoenix Feeley enters Day 5 of hunger strike - GoTopless plans protest in front of Monmouth County Jail on Saturday
Nadine Gary, spokesperson for GoTopless, a national women's organization devoted to achieving equal topless rights for women, says Feeley has been transferred from her cell to the jail's infirmary.
"In spite of her diminished physical condition, she has continued with her refusal to pay the discriminatory court fines she was assessed during her court hearing," Gary said. "She was ordered by Municipal Judge Pappas to spend 16 days in jail."
Gary said GoTopless activists in New Jersey are protesting Feeley's incarceration and will picket the Monmouth County Jail on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon.
"Ironically, Judge Pappas is the same judge who originally ruled against Phoenix Feeley for going topless at Spring Lake beach back in 2008," Gary said. "At the time, he declared vehemently that there would be no women going publicly topless in what he called 'his town'! That remark was of course in full violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."
Gary went to explain that Feeley's fight to achieve topless rights for herself and other women is strictly a matter of gender equality.
"Since New Jersey men are allowed to go topless in public, then, constitutionally, so must women; or else, as spiritual leader Rael, founder of GoTopless noted, men must be also forced to wear something to hide their chests."
Gary emphasized that for authorities and politicians like Congressman Pallone to use terms like "indecency" and "people's moral sensibilities" to suppress women's topless rights is unconstitutional.
"The New Jersey case of Gallagher vs. City of Bayonne showed that the New Jersey courts have repeatedly rejected attempts to enforce discriminatory statutes based solely on so-called 'moral sensibilities,'" she said. "The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment obviously applies to gender equality, just as it did when women sought the right to vote in 1920."
She pointed out that before the 19th amendment was passed, it was considered "indecent" for women to even want to vote.
"Alice Paul, a woman born in New Jersey, dedicated her life to securing equal rights for women and obtaining their right to vote," Gary said. "Today, Phoenix Feeley is dedicating her life to a different aspect of equal rights: topless rights."
"Suffragette activists, like Phoenix Feeley and other topless activists today, willingly went to jail for claiming their rights. That's why our annual GoTopless Day protests have been held for the last 6 years on or near Aug 26, Women's Equality Day. This year, GoTopless Day will fall on August 25 in more than 40 cities across the United States and around the world."
Gary said that in order to abide by the 14th Amendment, a number of states, such as New York in 1992 (as a result of The People vs. Santorelli), have already granted women the legal right to go publicly topless.
"New Jersey, along with all other U.S. states, is obligated to do the same," she said."And since the N.J. Supreme Court has refused to hear Ms. Feeley's case, her only recourse is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court so it can rule on this basic gender equality matter. GoTopless is watching this case very closely, and we're determined to see that equal topless rights for women become guaranteed by federal law."
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Gotopless-Canada supports Rebecca Anne Clark's right to go topless at the beach
With these words, Rebecca Anne Clark filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Quebec. In that complaint, she said she was humiliated last week by a City of Montreal lifeguard who asked her to cover her bare breasts.
In a statement released today by the organization GoTopless-Canada, Sylvie Chabot, spokeswoman for GoTopless, said that at the time of the incident, Clark was enjoying an outing at the Cap St-Jacques beach with her boyfriend.
"She simply removed the top of her swimsuit," Chabot explained. "She thought it was no problem to go topless on Quebec's beaches, but the lifeguard was filled with prejudice, and she offended Ms. Clark by forcing her to cover up on top without asking her partner to do the same. Therefore, this is a case of pure discrimination against women, and it should be denounced loudly."
Chabot said GoTopless was founded in 2007 and that its mission is to obtain for women the right to go topless legally wherever that right is granted to men. GoTopless events are held annually in over 40 cities around the world.
"If the right to go topless is not equal for both sexes, then men should cover their tops too," Chabot said. "We need to remember that in 1996, after a legal battle led by Gwen Jacob, the Court of Appeal for Ontario officially legalized the right for women to be topless on beaches and in parks across the province. That's why GoTopless demonstrated in Toronto streets in 2011 to change that city's municipal rule against female toplessless. It was in direct conflict with the provincial legislation. We were successful in getting the municipal rule eliminated. Since last summer, it has been legal for women to go topless on Toronto beaches."
GoTopless wants to see the same kind of change in Quebec.
"Although our organization hasn't been very active in Quebec before this, it's time to protest there!" Chabot said. "There
should be more women like Miss Clark, who is bravely defending her rights, and she can count on our support."
She said the authorities should devote their time and energy to enforcing legislation against harmful acts such as sexual violence and having sex with children because as attorney Julius Grey remarks, these serious, degrading acts are what the Supreme Court defines as obscenity but certainly not women baring their chest in public!
"Persecuting women like Ms. Clark for going without a top where men already can is discriminatory and wrong," Chabot said. "There is no shame about the human body, whether male or female, and it's time to change any law that says otherwise."
Chabot said GoTopless-Canada will hold protest demonstrations on Sunday, August 25.
(More details will follow about GoTopless's upcoming protest action in Montreal.)
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GoTopless activist Phoenix Feeley launches jail sentence with hunger strike
Feeley of New York City has decided to protest her incarceration with a hunger strike as she begins a jail sentence at the Spring Lakes NJ county jail, imposed for going bare-chested on a New Jersey beach.
"State and local laws are all over the map on the issue of women's topless rights," said Nadine Gary, spokesperson for GoTopless.org, a group founded by international spiritual leader Rael after he heard of Feeley's first arrest in New York City seven years ago. GoTopless claims women's constitutional right to go topless in public on the basis of gender equality.
"Ms. Feeley won a lawsuit against the New York Police Department in 2007 after being wrongfully arrested for going publicly topless there," Gary said. "She won that round, but another round started after that when she went topless on a beach at Spring Lake, N.J. in 2008. She was merely exercising her gender equal rights under the U.S. Constitution. Men throughout the United States have enjoyed going shirtless legally for the last 80 years. That includes all the men around her on the beach that day."
At Spring Lake, Feeley refused to cover up when police told her to. She was subsequently handcuffed and taken to a psychiatric ward, where she was involuntarily confined. On the door of her locked room was this notice: If a patient poses a threat to self or others, he or she must be evaluated by a doctor.
"In this case, a woman's nude torso was somehow deemed to cause a threat to others, but a consultation with a doctor never happened," Gary pointed out. "Nevertheless, she was asked to pay $1,400 for her forced visit to the mental facility. The police were wrong to take her there, because standing up for your constitutional rights doesn't mean you're mentally deranged!
This arrest was in gross violation of a citizen's rights, and the police officers involved should be prosecuted!"
Feeley took her case up through the N.J. courts.
"In the municipal court, the judge said he'd have her thrown in jail if she went topless again in his town," Gary said. "But the superior court judge seemed to uphold her constitutional topless rights, saying she wouldn't 'be made to sit in the back of the bus.' He was referring to Rosa Parks, of course."
The appellate court brought no resolution and the case reached the New Jersey Supreme Court, which refused to hear it.
"At this point, Phoenix has reached out to the U.S. Supreme Court," Gary said. "We're hoping it will rule in favor of a woman's constitutional right to go topless in public on the basis of gender equality. That would settle everything once and for all."
But Gary is aware that the process takes time, and there's no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.
"In the meantime, Phoenix has begun serving her jail sentence after rightfully refusing to pay for her forced stay in the psychiatric ward," Gary said. "As we went to press, she was set to begin a hunger strike the moment she arrived at the jail. She will be supported throughout the United States and throughout the world as GoTopless prepares to launch its 6th annual GoTopless Day protests on August 25 in honor of Women's Equality Day."