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GoTopless Pride Parade draws hundreds in march through Manhattan

Participants, some topless, march in midtown Manhattan during

Participants, some topless, march in midtown Manhattan during an event marking International Go Topless Day on Sunday, August 23, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Topless women marched through Times Square Sunday for women's rights -- and slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio for considering tearing up its pedestrian plaza following a controversy over bare-chested women and costumed characters busking for money.

"Women don't need to feel ashamed or embarrassed," said Rachel Jessee, who led the annual demonstration and is a spokeswoman for the GoTopless movement.

"If they are going to put a ban on topless women in Times Square, it's discrimination."

A couple hundred people, including about 75 bare-chested women, marched from 58th Street and Eighth Avenue to Bryant Park on GoTopless Day, which is celebrated internationally. They carried signs that read "demand topless equality." Celebrations were organized in countries that ranged from the Netherlands to Burkina Faso.

Last week, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he would like to just dig up Times Square's plaza -- and de Blasio said he would consider the idea. A task force will decide by October on what to do about the area.

Many marchers said they were angry that the Naked Cowboy could take pictures with tourists without blowback, but women donning body paint on their chests wasn't acceptable. One 27-year-old woman from Queens sported a pink cowboy hat and orange bandanna covering her face to critique the lack of outrage over the iconic busker.

"I think it's ridiculous," said Nickii Raynor, 18, of Shoreham, L.I. "It's a double-standard. No one was complaining about the Naked Cowboy."

Decorator and artist Sarah Pimenta, 26, was also surprised over the uproar. "A woman in body paint is somehow threatening," she said.

Sylvia, a 45-year-old academic from Long Island who didn't want to give her last name, said she came out for the first time because of her outrage over the mayor.

"That he would consider tearing out the plaza because he is offended by breasts, that just blows my mind," she said. "It's shocking and prudish and uptight. He's got his priorities wrong."

The mayor's office said toplessness is not what concerns the mayor.

"It is legal to be topless. That's not at issue. The mayor is troubled by the aggressive solicitation of both tourists and residents for money," said spokeswoman Karen Hinton. "The presence of both the painted ladies and the costume characters also makes it more difficult to walk, impeding pedestrian traffic and blocking building doors."

She added that the First Amendment would be upheld, as well as all voices heard.

The marchers were diverse in age, and included 66-year-old Connecticut grandmother Luzella Roos.

"We do everything men do," she said. "Why can't we can't go bare-chested?"

Many men also attended. Wardall Jackson, 34, of Sunset Park, said he was there to support women's rights.

"It's legal to go topless," he said. "Women should be able to do what men can do."


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