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Go Topless Day Protest At Venice Boardwalk (WARNING: NSFW)

Go Topless Day Protest

First Posted: 08/22/11 10:43 AM ET Updated: 10/22/11 06:12 AM ET

"Free your boobies, free your mind!"

"Put the 'tit' back in 'Constitutional!' "

"Nobody likes tan lines!"

These were just some of the rallying cries that united the "Go Topless Day" protestors at the Venice Boardwalk yesterday afternoon. March leader James Rich weaved the chants in between Bob Marley ("Get Up, Stand Up") and Beatles ("All You Need Is Love") songs, while the topless women beside him held signs and cheered for the cause.

The group was protesting California's unequal topless laws for men and women. While men are allowed to be completely shirtless where it's appropriate (i.e. the beach and the pool), women cannot expose their breasts and nipples (except at adult entertainment establishments) unless they want to be arrested for indecent exposure. The march coincided with other protests nationwide on the same day.

Warning: NSFW photos below.

As The Huffington Post explained earlier this week, women joining in the protest were encouraged to go topless, while men donned bikini tops to highlight the hypocrisy of the law. While many of the protesting women in Venice did indeed go topless, some also applied red tape crosses to cover their nipples. Some of the men and women also used nipple-like pasties on their chest.

The movement's roots go beyond the earthly realm to an extraterrestrial mandate guarded by the Raelian Movement. HuffPost Weird News explains:

The members of a UFO cult believe the right for women to go topless in the same places as men is one of the most significant civil rights issues of our time.

The group is called the Raelians and its members contend that humans were created by advanced scientists known as the Elohim. They believe that the human body is beautiful and shouldn't be covered up or subjected to hypocritical laws that allow men to go topless without letting women do the same.

Venice has seen four of these annual protests now, and whether or not the group of 50 topless women and bikini-ed men shocked the senses seemed to depend on how often one frequented the boardwalk.

(Story continues below)

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  • Go Topless Day (NSFW)

  • Nadine Gary

    Nadine Gary, president of <a href="http://www.gotopless.org/" target="_hplink">GoTopless.org</a>, explains that despite the Raelian root of the protest, "Go Topless is for all people. There are Christians, there are Buddhists, Muslims, and Jewish people. We all have a different belief system, but we all have a body that has been repressed and needs to be liberated."

  • James Rich

    James Rich, in the red bikini top, leads the protest. Part of the Raelian movement, Rich says, "It's not about the boobs, it's not about the breasts. It's about equality."

  • Melissa Ralph

    Melissa Ralph, who is seven months pregnant, is at her first topless protest. "I'm told that at I'll have to breastfeed at a restroom if it comes down to it, in some places," she says. Ralph continues: "I don't want to have to take my child into a dirty restroom when it's more of a dining room situation. You don't bring your own food into the bathroom, so why should a child have to feed in the bathroom?"

  • Aaron Smith

    Aaron Smith, also at his first topless protest, says "anything that's illegal should only be illegal if it's stomping on the rights of other people."

Table vendors shrugged at the protest, telling this reporter that "the naked people went that way."

Rollerblading teens stopped to gawk, but quickly went on their way down the concrete paths. Tourists and locals with massive prosumer cameras snapped away while slowly walking backward in front of the roving topless band.

The two policewomen that flanked the mile-long march down the boardwalk spent their time telling everyone to keep "five feet away" from the protest, and a few times even pushed away unruly men with their hands out, hoping to cop a feel.

And when the protestors reached their destination, the intersection of the boardwalk and Windward Avenue, they set up a soapbox where they solicited the crowd for signatures on their petition for women to have the option to go topless if they choose.

Ariane, one of the protestors, tells The Huffington Post, "I'm a big believer that people should be able to be free and naked and there's nothing shameful. It's beautiful and natural to be nude." She continues, "the fact that it's actually illegal for women to expose their nipples when men can run around topless is sexist and oppressive."

Chantel Durelli dressed as a mermaid with the word "censored" taped across her breasts. Durelli explains, "Mermaids are typically topless. So the idea behind this is that even the mermaids have to cover up because they're offending everybody." She goes on to clarify, "It's not about toplessness. It's more or less about having the same rights as men. Having to cover up when you go to the beach or the park -- what's so scary about boobs?"

*Story was edited to include details about the pasties protestors used to cover their nipples.

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