Civil Rights, Police

Know Your Rights, Take Your Shirt Off

The weather is finally heating up here in New York City, so this seems like a good time to remind everybody of their rights to unburden themselves of oppressive upper body clothing.

It’s cool, it’s for charity.

It’s legal, and if the cops hassle you about it, you might be able to really cash in…

The New York Times has this wonderful story about how police officers in the city have been reminded up to ten times that it is legal for a man or a woman to walk around topless. And I’m pretty sure those categories extend to fat men and ugly women, so don’t hate.

We know the city police have been recently reminded to let people go topless because a federal lawsuit has been brought against the city by a woman who has allegedly been harassed for doing just that:

The order was disclosed in an official memorandum contained in a federal lawsuit [Holly Van Voast] filed on Wednesday against the city and the department. The memo makes clear that bare-breasted women should not be cited for public lewdness, indecent exposure or any other section of the penal law.

The suit lists 10 episodes in 2011 and 2012 in which the police detained, arrested or issued summonses to Ms. Van Voast, 46, for baring her breasts at sites that included the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal, in front of a Manhattan elementary school, on the A train and outside a Hooters restaurant in Midtown. That last episode, the suit says, ended with her being taken by the police to a nearby hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Even I’ve seen Van Voast around town, and I don’t get out much. She’s famous for disrobing in public.

She’s not what the scientists would call “attractive,” and honestly, I think that’s why the cops trampled so aggressively on her rights. Something tells me that if, say, Rosario Dawson took off her top while walking her dog, she’d draw a crowd but not handcuffs.

In any event, Van Voast’s display of her rights has helped to protect this civil liberty for all of us. Any time you can get NYPD to be actually respect the rights of New Yorkers, it’s a good day:

Of a dozen patrol officers from precincts around the city interviewed on Wednesday, nearly all correctly cited the law on toplessness, though none would describe roll call discussions. Each declined to be quoted by name, citing departmental policy.

“It was told to us,” one said. “But I don’t remember if it was at roll call or in a conversation like this.”

Another said he remembered hearing last summer that “it’s legal to be topless if you’re a man or a woman.”

“I thought you had to have body paint,” a female officer said.

“No,” the first replied. “You don’t need that.”

So let loose, fellow New Yorkers. Summer is a fleeting thing, use the opportunity to show off your liberty.

Topless Woman? Move On, Police Are Told [New York Times]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments