Having boobs is complicated.
In the state of Minnesota, it’s technically legal for a person with breasts to go topless if they want to, as long as they’re not being “lewd.” Based on past citations, being “lewd” sometimes means “taking off your shirt at a sporting event” or “sunbathing.”
But there’s one place in Minneapolis you can’t take your shirt off no matter how you’re behaving: parks. A park board ordinance explicitly prohibits anyone older than 10 from exposing their “genitals, public area, buttocks, or female breast below the top of the areola.”
A few people have pointed out that this is weirdly specific and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Helena Howard, a woman who got cited for being topless at a Minneapolis beach while quietly reading a book in 2018, was willing to go to court to prove it, but her case got thrown out as soon as she lawyered up.
But after reaching out to her park board commissioner, she just might see the change she desired. Today, July 15, the park board is going to vote on eliminating the ordinance altogether and leaving it up to the state statute.
“Elsewhere in Minneapolis people of all genders can be topless in public,” Commissioner Chris Meyer posted on Facebook. “In spaces where men are allowed to go shirtless, women and transgender people should be able to as well.”
The reverse, Meyer went on to say, is true as well. If it’s not okay for women to go topless in a certain area, it shouldn’t be okay for men, either.
A lot of the commenters were supportive, or at least saw where Meyer was coming from. (One asked if city leaders had “a vendetta against families” and if we should “set up homeless camps in the parks, add in some nude communes, and then send our children to play on the new playgrounds our tax dollars built.”)
Colorful as that image may be, a new example of the kind of fiasco this ordinance change is supposed to prevent cropped up on Friday at Theodore Wirth Park, which straddles Minneapolis and Golden Valley. Some folks were lying on the beach by Twin Lake when officers with the Golden Valley Police Department started writing people up for toplessness.
The following Instagram video from a bystander demonstrates about how smoothly that went over.
View this post on Instagram
we were having a pleasant day at the beach until Golden Valley Police Dept / Minneapolis Police Department decided to come harass us for “illegal activity seen on a drone” they wouldn’t give us information on where to see the drone footage or read about the alleged assault they were called down for beyond “contact the golden valley police department” the woman cop came very close to pushing at least two people unprovoked but caught herself the last time i was profiled at the beach (hidden) i was the only black person (or one of very few) and also one of very few to get a ticket, after i watched a group of white purple only get a warning, and no one stood up in my defense. yesterday, however, a good amount of the beachgoers had their phones out, put themselves between the cops and us, immediately came to our defense, are collecting footage and information to fight it. several also offered to help pay the ticket. the solidarity was amazing i’ve never felt so taken care of in such a bullshit and stressful situation especially shout out to @demagorg_ who immediately spoke up and fought for us. a real one. i love you the most ��
A spokesperson with the Golden Valley Police Department says officers were responding to “many complaints” about the revelers, who were allegedly breaking ordinances about “not being properly clothed,” as well as possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages in a park. Nobody, she says, has been cited or charged yet. The department is still discussing how it wants to handle this.
Meanwhile, Meyer says that despite the hint of rancor on Facebook, the proposed ordinance change is being received very well. He’s had 20 emails and two phone calls about it, all of them from folks who supported the change.
The Minneapolis Park Board will meet at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 15. Here's Meyer's post on the subject in its entirety.