'Free-the-Nipple' movement draws anger, tickets in Gilford

Union Leader Correspondent
September 07. 2015 6:11PM

Heidi Lilley 

GILFORD - The "Free-the-Nipple" movement ran up against law enforcement and some angry parents Sunday afternoon, and two women left the Gilford town beach with tickets for breaking a local ordinance.

Several women took their tops off at the Gilford town beach, offending at least one parent and her children, according to the parent, who said her children were disturbed by the display.

"If nipple-freers want to champion their cause, they should take it somewhere (else)," parent Melanie D'Agata said in an email to the New Hampshire Union Leader Sunday night. "They might as well have shown up at the local soccer field or elementary school ... Their actions today in Gilford were a disgrace to women and 100 percent unacceptable. How dare they come in our backyard and involve our children?"

D’Agata said she and several children called the police from the beach to complain about the show of bare breasts.

Gilford Police Sgt. Corey O'Connor confirmed Monday that police had gone to the beach and issued two tickets to the topless women. He would not say what the tickets were for, saying police would formally address the issue today.

The movement's organizer, Heidi Lilley, said the tickets were for "toplessness," and said it was just what the movement was hoping for.

"We'll see what happens in court," she said, adding that the movement has a lawyer and intends to challenge the tickets, and the town ordinance, on Oct. 13, in Laconia District Court.

Lilley had gone topless on Weirs Beach Saturday, hoping to be ticketed or arrested. The participants' plan was to fight the tickets and challenge the city's ordinance against toplessness — which was instituted about 20 years ago so police could arrest women who were baring breasts on Motorcycle Weekend — in court.

That move followed the group's initial "statement of equality for the female breast" on Aug. 23 at Hampton Beach, when more than 50 topless women "made a statement for equality of the female breast," said Lilley, 54.

The movement, Lilley said, wants women to have the same rights as men when it comes to wearing no clothing on their upper bodies. The group thought Laconia's law was the only local law in the state prohibiting bare female breasts in public.

Lilley said she and several women had planned to go topless Sunday at Weirs Beach, but the beach was being prepared for fireworks and swimming was being curtailed there, she said, so they went to Gilford.

They were pleasantly surprised by getting tickets, she said, as the movement wants to overturn any and all New Hampshire laws against female breast exposure in public.

Lilley acknowledged the anger of the parents and some of the children.

"One of the mothers got right in my face about it," she said.

She said the movement's goal, however, is to desexualize the female breast.

"I want to have children see female breasts in a non-sexual way, but I don't think the children understand that, because the parents really don't seem to get it," she said.

D'Agata said Lilley did not understand the problem.

"I am all for a good cause in an appropriate setting. This was not it," she said in an email. "They did their cause absolutely no justice today. The only thing they accomplished in Gilford was making some children uncomfortable."


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