The organizer of next weekend’s Go Topless rally walked downtown with two topless women Friday afternoon, Aug. 17. Jeff Johnson, of Huntsville, Alabama, appeared on the street with women who identified themselves only by their first names, Lacey and Carrie.
The trio drew both cheers and jeers from passersby and frequently brought street traffic to a halt.
Johnson said the women were exercising their constitutional rights, pointing out that even though toplessness is not mentioned in America’s highest law, there are guarantees for equal protection for both sexes.
“There is no constitutional right to walk topless unless the men do too. Women and men should be able to be treated the exact same way, no matter what,” said Johnson. “Asheville is one of the few enlightened cities that does it this way.” He added, “The civil rights are there to protect you even if people don’t like what you do. That’s what civil rights are all about.”
Johnson said he has already filed permits for the larger upcoming rally, planned for August 26. A similar rally was held downtown last year.
Asked if he was connected with the Raelians, a religious group that believes in divine extraterrestrial beings and was rumored to have organized last year’s Go Topless rally, Johnson said no.
“However, everything that the Raelians do, I’m for,” he said. “I’m not a Raelian, I don’t believe like they do, but I believe in everything they believe in. They believe in equality for women.”
Johnson said he was aware of counter-protests being planned in response to his rally. Local conservative firebrand and former Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower is among the opposition.
“That’s his civil right,” said Johnson, “and we’re civil-rights advocates, so I’m all for him protesting.”