LACONIA — Small groups of women spent two days of topless sunbathing and swimming without incident at Weirs Beach over Labor Day Weekend but met with some resistance at Gilford Beach when other beach-goers called the police.
Co-organizer Heidi Lilley of the Free the Nipple NH campaign said about five of them left Weirs Beach on Sunday when the beach portion was closed around 5 p.m. to allow for the fireworks display to be set up.
A Gilford resident, Lilley and a few of her friends went to Gilford Beach to finish out their day.
When they arrived, she said, some kids yelled at them and said the beach wasn't a nudist camp but she said they ignored them. Shortly there after, she said two women approached them and asked if they realized Gilford Beach was a private beach.
Lilley said she told them she was a Gilford resident, that she paid taxes and had every right to be there. She said one of the women "got into our faces" and was "extremely verbally abusive."
Gilford Police responded and Lilley said they were "very polite and professional." She said they initially told them they could be cited for criminal trespass, however Lilley told them she lived in Gilford and produced identification to prove it.
She said the officers explained there was a Gilford Beach ordinance ( Article G number 7) that prohibits topless sunbathing and then asked them to put on their shirts.
Lilley said all of them complied with the police who then asked if any of them wanted to be cited. She said three of them said "yes" but the police only wrote two summons – one for her and one for another woman. She said the officers explained to them that they violated a beach ordinance not a town ordinance. She said she has a court date of October 13 at the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division and the fine is $25.
As to their two days in Laconia, she said in her opinion the police couldn't be bothered. On the Saturday morning that the Laconia Daily Sun covered the story, Lilley was the only woman in the group who had arrived and the only police officer seen was a motorcycle officer who rode down Lakeside Avenue apparently on a routine patrol.
During the Daily Sun's time at the beach, there wasn't any hubbub about Lilley nor did anyone appear to be offended or upset.
When asked why she thought they were ignored by the police, she said her interpretation is that it's the police department – or at least those who were on patrol – who are "saying the laws are wrong."
The Union Leader quoted the day supervisor for the Laconia Police saying on Saturday the department hadn't gotten any complaints.
The Laconia Police logs indicate there was one call for a disturbance Saturday at the Weirs Beach sign and a local woman said she saw about three women take pictures of each other topless but said when they heard sirens the women left and the sirens ended up being for fire personnel.
A second "complaint other" was reported from Endicott Beach on Sunday but it may have been related to a boating incident that happened around that time.
The Free the Nipple NH campaign is to call attention to inequalities between men and women. Lilley said the only thing her organization wants is for women to be able to go to the beach without tops, like men can.