LACONIA — The co-organizer for the Free the Nipple N.H. campaign said yesterday that they are bringing their campaign to Laconia, likely Weirs Beach, before summer's end.
Heidi Lilley of Gilford said yesterday that she wasn't sure when the protest event would be held but said it would be this year.
Laconia is being targeted because it is the only city in New Hampshire where exposing the nipple portion of the female breast is not allowed. The city ordinance was passed in 1998 primarily to quell some of the rowdiness directed at females during Motorcycle Week.
"We want to firm things up a bit and have our lawyer write letters to notify both the City Council and the Laconia Police about our selected date, she said, adding that some "friendly" motorcycle clubs will be joining them.
Free the Nipple N.H. is a Facebook-centered campaign that is trying to equalize the rights between men and women. In previous interviews, Lilley said that the rights women seek are only to be able to go topless — like men — at beaches and pools. The movement began as an offshoot of a group supporting public breast-feeding and evolved into an equality movie of the same name that was released in 2014.
She said the people in the campaign have no desire to go into restaurants and shops — where shirtless men are also prohibited — but only to have the same rights as they do, primarily at the beach and pools.
Lilley also talked about last weekend's rally at Hampton Beach where the rain kept the numbers of participants lower that hoped. She said she was pleased with the turnout but it ended up being a spectacle because all of the participants were huddled under a shelter because of the rain.
"Because we were gathered in one place, we were a spectacle," Lilley said, adding that the group just wanted a nice day at the beach where they could lay topless in the sun while sunbathing.
Since 2010, Laconia police have about a handful of violations of the no naked female breasts ordinance each year and those cited also include people who encourage women to expose their breasts. The ordinance stipulates a violation-level offense and calls for $250 fine for the first offense up to a $1,000 fine for a third offense.
Three city councilors who spoke on the record two weeks ago said their impression was the ordinance was passed primarily for safety reasons and not for public morality purposes.
Lilley said yesterday that the groups' intentions in coming to Laconia is not to create a spectacle but to sunbath topless.
"We're not anticipating any problems and we're not planning on causing any," Lilley said.
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