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Woman Protestor Argues First Amendment Rights

Woman Protestor Argues First Amendment Rights
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Nov 3, 2004 2:00 PM PST    Text size: 
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Elizabeth Book, the activist who was arrested for exposing her breasts during a protest at Bike Week in Daytona Beach last March, will go to trial on Thursday, Nov. 5, and argue that police officers violated her First Amendment rights by arresting her.

Book's protest, which attracted international media interest, was intended to draw attention to the abuses by local law enforcement policies where young women are routinely arrested and fined for "flashing" during special events in Daytona Beach and elsewhere. Those policies, Book claims, violated her free speech right to go topless in public – something that men can engage in with impunity.

Book staged a "top free" protest during which she briefly bared her breasts in the course of making a political speech on the Main Street Bridge in Daytona.

The Daytona Beach Public Nudity ordinance specifically allows nudity during a bona fide demonstration or protest, however police officers immediately arrested her as soon as she removed her top.

"Law enforcement officials ignored the city's law and decided to enforce their own morals instead of recognizing Ms. Book's free speech rights to express herself during the protest," said Lawrence Walters, Esq., of www.FirstAmendment.com. Walters is Book's defense attorney.

"We hope to convince the court that the First Amendment applies everywhere, even in the City of Daytona Beach," he added.

Book filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on the fact that city ordinances expressly allow nudity during a demonstration, and the First Amendment requires that municipalities permit some degree of nudity in connection with speech-related activities. The motion will be heard first on Thursday. If necessary, the court will then proceed directly to trial.

Although the ordinance calls for up to $500 in fines and six months in jail if convicted, the parties agreed that Book would not go to jail or be formally convicted if found guilty by the court.

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