Top-Free Stand Protest Planned for Women's Day

Top-Free Stand Protest Planned for Women's Day
Stephen Yagielowicz
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Elizabeth Book is planning to hold another "top-free stand" protest, scheduled for International Women's Day, March 8.

"I have chosen International Women's Day as the day of my protest for a very good reason," Book said. "The United Nations has sanctioned this day for women to make a stand for women's issues and women's rights … I am demanding those protections for myself and all the other women from around the world who will come to stand with me again on March 8."

Book made headlines in 2004 when she was arrested while staging a "top-free" protest during Daytona Bike Week where she bared her breasts while making a political speech.

Although women are commonly cited for exposing their breasts during Bike Week, the Daytona Beach public nudity ordinance allows nudity during a legitimate demonstration or protest. Despite this, police arrested Book once she removed her top.

Book told XBIZ that a recent rewording of the ordinance allows women to protest topless against any issue except against the laws prohibiting public exhibition of female breasts.

"We can protest topless with signs that say 'Support our troops,'" said Book. "[but] not 'free our breasts.'"

"Obviously, the city is becoming increasingly desperate as this campaign moves forward. We've beaten them every time in court, but they can't seem to accept a loss," said Book's attorney, Lawrence Walters. "Now they're tinkering with their ordinance, apparently in an effort to ignore the state court interpretations in our favor, so that only the federal court decisions matter. This is a wasted effort, since Liz Book's protests are protected by the 1st Amendment regardless of which court we're in."

Book, who claims to be a single mother on food stamps, seeks to "celebrate the beauty and strength of women," and has established a petition to go before the U.N. in January, as well as a legal defense fund.

"I believe they are trying real hard to find a way around the original ordinance and the appellate court rulings that are in our favor," Book said. "This time when we step up to the plate, we will step up with a federal injunction in hand. I can only hope that we may also gain some protection through the petition that I will bring before the U.N."

Walters said he isn't surprised at the lengths the government will go to stifle protected expression it opposes.

"Apparently, the city believes that it can pick and choose which courts it will listen to, when particular ordinances are challenged or interpreted," said Walters. "Frankly, I've never seen anything like this."

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