'It is our right': Sisters lead topless protest for bare-breast awareness in Waterloo, Ont.
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, August 1, 2015 8:13AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 1, 2015 4:47PM EDT
Chants of "My body, my choice" rang out in the streets of Waterloo, Ont., on Saturday as protestors rallied to support three sisters who were stopped by police for biking topless a week ago.
Bare-breasted woman and men stood in solidarity with Alysha Mohamed and her two sisters, Tameera and Nadia, in the city's Town Square, before the protest made its way onto the streets.
Alysha Mohamed says she and her sisters were cycling topless in nearby Kitchener, Ont., on July 24 when a male police officer drove up beside them and told them that their actions were illegal and that they needed to cover up.
Mohamed, who is a Juno-nominated musician under the stage name Alysha Brilla, started filming the interaction on her cellphone. During the encounter, she told the officer he was incorrect about the law. Women have had the right to go topless in public in Ontario since 1996.
She said that the officer later claimed he only wanted to see if the woman's bikes were equipped with the proper bells and lights.
In a speech at the protest on Saturday, Mohamed said she was standing up for women's right to bare their breasts in public.
"We're here today just to celebrate freedom and equality for all genders … and the ability, on a hot day, to go topless if we choose so because it is our right in Canada," she told the crowd.
University student Gwen Jacob spearheaded the movement to give Ontario women the legal right to expose their breasts, after she was charged for doing so in 1991. Jacob was charged with committing an indecent act in Guelph, Ont., after walking home topless in 33 C weather.
She was acquitted five years later, when the Ontario Court of Appeal decided the act of a woman exposing her breasts was not in itself a sexual or indecent act.
Jacob also spoke Saturday's event.
Tameera Mohamed told CTV Kitchener that the protest was necessary to speak out against the continued "objectification and sexualization of women's bodies."
"We don’t have to agree on whether or not a woman should be topless in public, but it's our legal right and you don’t have the right to harass us for it," Tameera Mohamed said.
She added that the event was a way for woman to "exercise their right to be topless in public, in a safe and supportive environment."
"This is the kind of support that we don’t realize exists when we go out on the street by ourselves and are sexually harassed all the time, so to be able to see that kind of support is amazing," she said.
Protester Diane Brisebois came from Toronto to participate in the event. She said that while woman legally have the right to bare their breasts, it’s important to show young women that they shouldn't be shamed into covering up.
"I think the older generation is very afraid of the harassment that they get, or the ogling, and I think the younger generation is the one who will make the change," said Brisebois.
The event attracted a number of men who said they were on hand to catch a glimpse of the proceedings.
"I came to see the (breasts),” said Ed Jordan."No, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, I support it really," he added.
Josh Izz filmed as the protesters filed into the streets of Waterloo. He said he was doing it "just for fun" and planned to post the video to Facebook.
"It's freedom. Everyone has equal rights. If the men do it, let women do it too," said Izz.
The protesters took note of their observers, but the event went down without major incident.
"It is a little bit bothersome," said Tameera Mohamed. "I mean the police are here to support us and we have a lot of security here, and if people are taking photos against people, will they will be reprimanded."
She added that she hoped the onlookers would learn something by attending the event.
With files from CTV Kitchener