More than 300 people, mainly bare-breasted women, took part in a topless pride parade in New York City on Aug. 23. This year, the annual event was more than a statement by women who say they should be allowed to walk around the Big Apple without shirts, just like men.
“Free your mind! Free your nipples!” one of the parade organizers, Katie Lombardo, yelled to the crowd.
To which one of the hundreds of men in the audience told the New York Daily News, “This is sweet. I didn’t know this was happening today. Who doesn’t like breasts?”
Lombardo and her fellow topless advocates would hope there were people in the crowd lining the parade route who understood the deeper meaning behind the protest.
“Men can walk around shirtless all the time,” she said. “Why can’t we? I love it. This is about the genders being equal.”
Lombardo and her bare-breasted followers also wanted to make a statement about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) promise to stop female panhandlers with painted breasts from using their nudity to solicit tips from tourists, the latest evolution of panhandling on Times Square.
For years, people dressed as cartoon characters have been getting tourists to snap pictures of them with their kids to raise money. City officials had no problem with that. Some called it the “Disney-fication” or even the “Giuliani-ficaiton” of Times Square in honor of the mayor who is credited with clearing the district of hookers and peep shows.
However, even the cartoon characters are getting out of control. There was, for instance, the case of the Times Square Cookie Monster, Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, who was accused of pushing a 2-year-old kid and calling his mother a “bitch” after she refused to pay for a photo.
There is also the case of Daniel Kimery, a 36-year-old panhandler who greets tourists with a sign that doesn’t shy away from why the Arkansas native has his hand out.
“F-ck You!! Pay Me!!!” his hand-lettered cardboard sign reads. “I need money 4 Drugz & Hoez & Weaponz Mother F–kerz!” As the New York Post reported, Kimery is a continuing thorn in the side of the NYPD.
But be that as it may, the festive-carnival, and often family-friendly, atmosphere of Times Square was thriving until the appearance of the “desnudas,” which is Spanish for naked.
Their breasts usually painted red, white, and blue in a display of patriotic, perky pride, wearing only a thong to cover what Eve shielded from Adam’s eyes with a fig leaf, they brazenly approach male tourists offering photos in exchange for tips.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) finds it disgusting. He told NY1 that it reminds him of the bad old days of the 1990s “and we are not going back.”
“I believe this activity is illegal,” Cuomo said. “I believe it is infringing on legitimate businesses. I believe it is infringing on the investment that the state and the city made in the 42nd Street area and I believe it has to be stopped.”
Even a liberal like de Blasio has seen more than he can tolerate.
“Millions of families and visitors come to Times Square every year to see and experience the bustling metropolis of New York City – the Crossroads of the World,” said de Blasio. “Yet that experience has been diminished by the proliferation of topless individuals and costumed characters who too often harass people and expose families to inappropriate acts.”
Mayor de Blasio has appointed a task force to study the Times Square problem of too many costumed characters, and topless desnudas panhandlers.
“To ensure all are welcome, and to continue the great success that is Times Square, the City will aggressively pursue every avenue for regulating these behaviors,” he also said. “This task force will identify the best legal and regulatory ways to move forward and keep Times Square the popular destination site for visitors and families from New York City and across the world.”
Plenty of city officials lined up to support that idea. But there was only a lone voice in the wilderness crying out to back de Blasio’s other suggestion: rip up Time Square’s pedestrian plaza that the panhandlers are using as a venue for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
The sole voice supporting the destruction of the pedestrian plaza belonged to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who said the city should “just dig the whole damn thing up and put it back the way it was.”
Besides wrecking the plaza, which has been an iconic symbol of the family friendliness of Times Square, does this all end if Cuomo and de Blasio fail to convince the women of New York to button up their blouses and hide their breasts?
Claire Hogenauer, a 69-year-old retired criminal defense attorney, hopes that the 2,000 breasts of 1,000 women will be bared alongside hers in a massive mammary movement of solidarity with their desnudas sisters.
Besides, Hogenauer, who bared her breasts on Times Square as part of the topless pride parade told the NY Post, “It feels nice. If it were really hot…I’d be saying, ‘Why haven’t I done this all my life?’”