Topless Protestor Wins Appellate Case

Michael Hayes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Elizabeth Book, the activist who was arrested for exposing her breasts during a protest at Bike Week in Daytona Beach in March, 2004 and faced subsequent prosecution for violating the city’s ordinance banning public nudity, has won an appellate court victory.

In a four-page order, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Judicial Circuit upheld a trial court decision from June, 2005 ruling in favor of Book’s right to protest topless.

The city appealed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that Book’s decision to go topless constituted “political protest/communication.”

“We hope that this decision puts to rest any question about Ms. Book’s right to conduct ‘top free protests’ in the city of Daytona Beach,” Book’s attorney Lawrence Walters said. “The city has engaged in an outright campaign of prosecution against our client, charging her or threatening her on multiple occasions with jail and fines, as a result of her political protests and exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Attorneys for the City have the option to seek review of the decision by going to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Walters said such an appeal is discretionary and only allowed under exceptional circumstances.

Book is currently facing charges in a separate case, where the state is alleging that her actions in appearing topless in a political protest in front of the topless Grecian statutes near the Peabody Auditorium constitute “disorderly conduct” in violation of Florida state law. That case is scheduled for final hearing Dec. 14.