Pop-eyed pubescent boys on skateboards, families out on strolls and people lunching on patios on Queen St. E. near Woodbine all got an unexpected eyeful on Sunday afternoon as dozens of men in bras and red bikini tops and bare-breasted women of all ages, shapes and sizes marched by just after noon.
Flanked by Toronto police on bikes and led by a car pulling a U-Haul trailer and poster proclaiming “Equal Topless Rights for All or None,” the group danced, sang and jiggled their way up Woodbine Ave. from Lake Shore Blvd. E., east on Queen St. and south on Lee Ave., ending in an area bordering on Kew Gardens — but never stepping foot in the public park.
Had they done so, the bare-breasted women could have been ticketed and fined. The City of Toronto had earlier determined that aspects of a planned event to promote the right of women to be bare-breasted in public — organized by the Canadian chapter of the U.S.-based GoTopless.org — violated the Toronto Municipal Code and a permit was recently denied.
What aspect of the Code the event violated was not divulged last week by the city’s customer care manager Mark Lawson when he spoke to the Star.
“It’s ridiculous,’’ said Diane Brisebois, one of the coordinators of the event, pointing out the women can legally walk along Toronto city streets topless but can’t put a foot on park grass.
It’s discriminatory to let men walk around in public in Toronto parks without tops, but women aren’t allowed to do the same, she said. Having the men in the march wear bras or bikini tops was meant to emphasize the inequality. Some of the women in the march wore angel wings, which are meant to keep men more “respectful,’’ said Brisebois.
She said she didn’t think that the men who take their tops off to play volleyball on the beach would take kindly to being told they have to cover up.
Brisebois described Sunday’s walk by protesters from Ontario and Quebec as a “meaningful exercise to change the way people think. We need to educate men when they see topless women to stop gawking … because it’s natural. There is no part of our body that is impure or dirty.”
But even as she spoke, Brisebois and company were being snapped by gawkers — in fact the whole entourage was followed all along their route by a posse of photo-snappers and, well, enthusiasts.
One man, who didn’t want to give his name but said he was from “north Etobicoke,” came, with his camera, “out of curiosity.”
Many seemed supportive of the group’s position. Jim Brown, 53, who lives in the area, said whether women go topless or not should be “up to them.”
One man even left his perch on a patio bar to join the group, dancing along the street with them, playing air guitar and remarking, at one point, “this has made my day. This is New Years and Halloween — all at once.”
Brisebois said the group will be applying for another permit next year.
GoTopless has started a petition with a target of 7,000 signatures, asking Toronto to respect equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Human Rights, as well as a groundbreaking 1996 Ontario Court of Appeal verdict.
That ruling exonerated Guelph resident Gwen Jacobs who had been arrested in 1991, after she took her shirt off in public on a hot day. The judgment effectively made it legal to go topless in Ontario.