Hundreds in Canada rally for women’s topless rights

Hundreds in Canada rally for women’s topless rights

MONTREAL – Agence France-Presse
Hundreds in Canada rally for women’s topless rights

AP photo

Topless protesters marched in Waterloo, Ontario on Aug. 1 to defend women’s rights to go bare-chested, after three sisters were stopped for bicycling semi-nude.

Hundreds turned out for the rally, which was organized by sisters Tameera, Nadia and Alysha Mohamed, who were approached by police last month in neighboring Kitchener after they removed their shirts in an effort to cool off during a bike ride.

An officer stopped the women and asked them to cover up, and later said he was stopping them to make sure their bicycles were appropriately outfitted with bells and lights.

The sisters filed a complaint with the Waterloo Regional Police after the incident.

One of the three sisters who organized the demonstration goes by the stage name Alysha Brilla, and was nominated this year for a Juno award -- Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy.

Protesters held banners that read “They are boobs not bombs, chill out” and “Nudity isn’t sexual.”

Waterloo police executive officer Mike Haffner said on Twitter Aug. 1’s demonstration was “respectful, peaceful, safe.”

The sisters invited people to the event on Facebook, labeling the demonstration “Bare with Us: Top Freedom Rally.”

“Women are still not truly free to be topless in public, without facing harassment from passersby and in some cases, uninformed police officers,” a statement on the page said.

Organizers encouraged people to join the march “in solidarity to support women’s right to be topless in public, and also to show support for desexualizing women’s breasts.”

Women in Ontario are legally permitted to bare their breasts in public, according to legislation passed in 1996. In June in Guelph, Ontario, an incident involving a topless eight-year-old girl sparked similar furor after a swimming pool employee asked the youngster to cover up.