When word came that there was a protest in Central Park on Sunday afternoon to be carried out exclusively by naked girls, The Transom sprung into action, camera in hand.
But on arrival, there was only a huddle of shirtless old men. Some were on bicycles. Others merely stood around writing slogans on each other’s backs… with permanent marker.
The demonstration, one of them explained, was being held in the name of a woman who had taken “her clothes off in protest of the Iraqi war and walked naked in the fountain.” She’d been arrested, despite statute 245.01 of the penal code, which gives women the right to go topless, on account of equal rights and all. “It’s pretty much a political thing,” the man explained. “I’m a troublemaker.”
The Transom’s eyes had strayed by then, however. There were six boobs in the midst of the sausage fest.
Two of them belonged to Phoenix Feeley, a young 2k5 hippie with American flag shorts on and needles through her nipples. She’d also been arrested for exposing her chest, in a separate incident, and as far as she knew, that was the inspiration for the afternoon’s protest. Phoenix wore rollerblades. She laughed sweetly as she explained the various slogans on her chest: “No War,” for obvious reasons, and “I Am Art,” for quite separate ones. “I think they’re beautiful, don’t you?” she said, looking over at the shirtless men nearby. “It is a man’s right to be topless—topfree—and nobody stops him…. We’re here, and we’re gonna show that we can be topfree—that we can be on our bikes or on our blades and be part of traffic.”
Phoenix’s friend Dana, meanwhile, pictured below with her daughter, spoke to reporters and friends as the group prepared for its march around the park. “You can totally tell she was nursed as a child,” Phoenix exclaimed as Dana’s little girl bounded forth for a hug with arms akimbo.
“Leave people alone, you know? If we can do it, why can’t they?” said one male bystander, on break from his job at a nearby bistro. “More fun for me!”
This kind of attitude seemed uncommon, weirdly enough, and to everyone’s surprise, reporters from the Daily News appeared to be the only ones taking any pictures.
“I remember when I was in college, and it clearly mattered more to the people with the binoculars than it did it to me,” said Chanita Baumhaft, a young fiction writer who sat happily topless on the curb with her boyfriend. “The gawker situation is not too bad.”
Indeed, the protestors didn’t win an audience until they started moving a little before 3 p.m. “Freeeeedddooooooom!” Phoenix cried, touching off on her rollerblades and overpowering even the massive Dominican Day Parade that was roaring wildly on Central Park West. The women moved swiftly, some of them traveling on their own wheels and others bouncing humbly in rental rickshaws. The men kept up, pedaling furiously with their helmets on and their shirts still absent.
After a few minutes, Phoenix announced that the people who could keep up would go ahead, and the rest would meet back at Columbus Circle after the journey had been made.
“This is amazing,” said one teenage boy by the side of the road, as Dana bought an ice cream sandwich for her daughter. “This is better than the internet.”
A pair of fully-clothed Texan women riding by in a tour buggy, however, did not find the display so amusing. “We don’t have these in Texas, these naked women,” one of them said. “I was like, ‘holy shit!’ I was thinking that it’s illegal!”
Apparently the police thought so too. As we made our way back to 67th and Central Park West to wait for the bikers to make their loop, an officer rolled by in a cruiser and said that he was looking for a protest. Needless to say, The Transom did not snitch.
The rain started to fall just as the girls rolled into Columbus Circle a half hour later, the ink on Phoenix’s body starting to run a little, her nipple rings glistening. The protest dispersed as the downpour grew thicker, and before long, naked time was over. It was the best day.
— Leon Neyfakh