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Topless Women, Men Parade Through Manhattan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Bare-chested women and men marched through Midtown Manhattan on Sunday, defying anyone who wanted to stop them.

The fact is, appearing topless is legal in New York. So the few dozen participants who gathered for the group GoTopless' Nipple Pride Parade knew authorities had no power to block them.

"Women ought to be able to have their tops off, just the way men can," one woman told WCBS 880's Jim Smith.

Topless Women, Men Parade Through Manhattan

The breast-flashing action came amid a growing controversy over topless, painted women posing for tips in Times Square.

The parade started at Columbus Circle and moved to Bryant Park, just off Fifth Avenue.

As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, more than 100 men and women took place in the event, in hopes of spreading a message of equality.

It's part of the annual worldwide GoTopless Day. Events were planned in about 60 cities, including Los Angeles.

The eye opening rally fell three days before Women's Equality Day, and made its way through the city as topless women in Times Square caused a headlining debate about legality.

The painted ladies made it clear where they stood on the issue, with the word 'equality' painted on their backs.

GoTopless spokesperson Rachel Jessee said the goal is for gender equality when it comes to baring one's chest.

"For 23 years, New York has been a beacon of topless equality,"Jessee said in a news release. 

"But few women exercise their topless rights in New York even now. Shame and guilt are deeply ingrained, and they find it hard to break free. The purpose of the Nipple Pride Parade is to empower them to overcome those feelings."

Police blocked off streets along the route.

The event was planned before the controversy erupted over the painted ladies in Times Square, which one topless parade participant called an overreaction.

"I think it's silly," she said, comparing the women to the Naked Cowboy. " ... It needs to be equal. That's what the problem is.

"It's not sexual. Get over it," she added. "It's the human body."

But the march attracted plenty of onlookers, all with cellphone cameras.

Not everyone was on board with the message.

"Ridiculous to show your body like that to the public," Tina Forbes said.

"It's inappropriate. It's not good for the community," Devanta Roberts said.

"I don't want to judge, but at the same time when you have your family walking around I don't think I would want my kids to necessarily see that," Susan Atat said.

State Senator Ruben Diaz plans to introduce legislation to prohibit toplessness for both genders in public places except beaches.

Not everyone thinks that makes sense.

"A topless man walks around the beach, that's cool. That's why for a bathing suit for women there's something to cover this and that," Dimitri Alexander said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has formed a multiagency task force to address the issue of the topless women in Times Square. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton suggested last week tearing up the pedestrian plaza because he said it has become a gathering place that has led to more problems.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he believes the women posing for the photos are breaking the law and undermining efforts to keep the tourist area family friendly. He told NY1 on Wednesday that the situation is beginning to remind him of the seedy days of the "bad old Times Square."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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