Topless woman downtown causes a stir; her march is coming
FARMINGTON - A topless woman standing on the corner of Main and Broadway Saturday morning brought several complaints to the Franklin County dispatch center and more to town and state officials.
Farmington Police Department Officers Bill Tanner and Kim Bates responded to the first complaint at 11:22 a.m. On arrival they found Andrea Simoneau, a University of Maine at Farmington history major, topless and handing out flyers advertising an upcoming topless march from 1 to 2 p.m. on April 30 at Meetinghouse Park on Main Street. According to Tanner's report, several pedestrians stopped and looked at the woman, with many taking flyers from her.
"A lot of people were supportive," Simoneau said. "And some weren't." She credits Officers Tanner and Bates with helping those who weren't so supportive in clarifying that it's legal in Maine for women to go bare chested in public.
"The Farmington police were my greatest ally, backing me up a couple of times," she said.
The officers did advise Simoneau that if rubber necking causes an accident because of the unusual sight, she may be held accountable.
"I would put my shirt back on if I thought someone might get hurt. I don't want anyone to get hurt," she said.
In Portland on April 3, a topless march of between 20 to 30 people was held to protest society's gender bias that holds men can take their shirts off in public but women can't. Simoneau of Brooks, Maine, said she participated in that march and was inspired by it to organize a march in Farmington. She plans to advertise her April 30 march again on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.
She believes her handing out flyers and marching topless will help break the social taboo that women have to keep their shirts on in public and men don't. It's an important message for all those who oppose it, she said, "it's doing something good for them and for future generations."
After an hour and half of handing out flyers on Saturday, Simoneau left, but the incident continues to be the talk of the town. Selectmen have received complaints and calls to action, according to Town Manager Richard Davis, who fielded one complaint first thing this morning.
"No laws were broken," Davis said. "There's nothing selectmen can do; it shouldn't be a matter for them." Instead he advises people to call their local state legislator if they want to get a law on the books prohibiting topless women in public places.
Lots of people have taken that advice, because State Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said as of Sunday night, he'd fielded 30 calls so far from people complaining of a topless woman on Main Street.
Davis said a march held at Meetinghouse Park wouldn't need a permit approved by selectmen, as some events require, because the event would not be using any facilities and would not be occurring over a sustained period of time. Freedom of assembly in a public place is a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, he noted.
"Some of those opposed said they had a moral objection to it, after they were told no law had been broken," Simoneau said. In the end she hopes her political activism will help those who have a moral issue with it to ask themselves why and give more women who want to take their shirts off, the freedom to do so without objection.
She believes, so far, she has 15 people signed up to march with her on April 30.