FARMINGTON — As town officials and police received calls seeking to stop a scheduled topless march planned for April 30, the student planning the event strolled topless through downtown streets Wednesday.
Andrea Simoneau, 22, left her post at the corner of Broadway and Main Street and nonchalantly walked down Main across South Street and up High Street wearing only a long skirt and the words “Freedom” written across her chest. The date, time and place of the march were written in pink across her back.
Simoneau and some friends attended a similar march in Portland earlier this month where she said she felt empowered and wanted to extend that to women in Farmington. She said she wanted to accomplish two things: to let women know it's not illegal to go topless in Maine and to expose the double standard applied to women who want to appear bare-chested in public.
The University of Maine at Farmington senior was also downtown topless on Saturday passing out fliers to promoting the march. Some people were supportive, Simoneau said. But police got numerous calls from motorists and people on the street who were offended by the demonstration.
Town officials and legislative leaders have since received calls, many from people who were upset and angry, seeking a stop to the march.
Although not listed as an item on the selectmen meeting agenda Tuesday night, three residents waited through a lengthy meeting to voice their concerns about the event.
“I'm concerned with this going on in our town," Max Yates told the board. "I'm concerned for children and families. It's a family-value issue and it is inappropriate.”
He said he was worried that the 1 p.m. march was near the time for school buses to appear.
Yates went on to urge the board to adopt a nudity ordinance similar to those adopted in other towns. He passed out copies of Rumford's nudity ordinance adopted in 1996 to “define what constitutes public nudity, regulate where it may occur, establish enforcement procedures for violating where it may occur and provide civil penalties for said violations.”
Board members said the measure could not be adopted prior to the April 30 event, and there would be a potential legal liability if they tried to deny people's rights of expression.
Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to defer to state legislative action, as suggested by Rep. Lance Harvell and Sen. Walter Gooley, both Farmington Republicans. With the Legislature adjourned, it's not likely any action will be taken before the march.
Although Harvell couldn't attend the meeting, Selectman Ryan Morgan said he had called and was looking into what could be done at the state level. Gooley, who is not seeking re-election and will not be in Augusta next January, told the board he would work on the issue with Harvell.