Last week, we told you about Jessica Krigsman, a Brooklyn woman who’s suing the city, alleging that she was wrongfully arrested last summer for sitting topless in a Gravesend park.
According to the suit, Krigsman was sitting on a bench when two police officers approached and told her to get dressed; when she declined, the suit alleges, Officer Colleen Canavan forced her shirt on her. Krigsman was cuffed, taken to the precinct, and, ultimately, charged with “obstruction of a sitting area,” a charge that was later dropped.
Although going shirtless in New York is, for the nth time, totally, totally legal, Krigsman’s lawsuit generated the usually flurry of commentary about whether it’s right and appropriate and what about the children.
“Skank,” offered one thoughtful commenter beneath a New York Post story.
“Instead of arresting her, the cops should have supported her by banging the living daylights out of her,” another upstanding citizen remarked.
The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society takes a different view. In the warm months, the group meets regularly in Manhattan public spaces to both read fine literature and offer a bracing visual reminder of the legality of public plein air shirtlessness in the city.
Group members use pseudonyms to protect their privacy; via e-mail, a spokesowman who goes by “Althea Andrews” denounced Krigsman’s arrest but emphasized they’d never had a similarly negative encounter with the cops.
“We have never, in three summers of meeting topless outdoors all over New York City dozens of times, had a negative interaction with law enforcement,” Andrews writes. “Not once.” The closest they’ve come, she adds, was in Central Park their first summer, when a cop approached and asked them to put their shirts on. When they informed her the practice was legal, Andrews says, “she was dubious, but radioed back to headquarters, got confirmation that we were right, and told us to have a nice day and walked off.”
Andrews has a few theories as to why Krigsman had a different experience.
“Clearly she had the misfortune to encounter a police officer who was not only ignorant of the law but abusive as well,” she writes. “She also was doing it by herself–which should be every woman’s right, just as it is every man’s, but is clearly riskier than doing it in a group like ours. A lone wrongheaded policeman might harass a woman sunbathing by herself–good luck harassing a dozen of us doing it together. Finally, we generally meet in Manhattan; she was sunning in a distant part of Brooklyn. The law is the law all over the city, but some neighborhoods know it better than others.”
Krigsman, who’s suing for for civil rights violations, malicious prosecution, assault, and battery, is seeking unspecified damages. Topless Book Club members tend to curtail their outdoor meetings during the winter but are planning a snowball fight at high noon during the first good snow of the season.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 14, 2013