TORONTO - When the city denied them a permit, protesters brought out the big guns.
About 20 topless women from GoTopless.org marched on Toronto's Queen Street East after the parks department turned down their request to mark National Go Topless Day at Ashbridges Bay park on Sunday.
They turned their event — where women go bare-breasted in public — into a protest.
"They requested for us to go to Hanlan's Point, a nude beach, which for us is not an option," said co-ordinator Diane Brisebois. "If men are allowed here, to be topless on the beach, all women should be allowed to be topless, too. For us, it's about equal rights and freedom."
A spokesman from the city's parks department has said Toronto's municipal code requires members of groups using parks to be "properly attired."
However, an Ontario appeal court ruling in the 1990s set a precedent which allows women to go topless in public.
A pickup truck, blaring the Beatles' song Revolution, led the topless brigade of women — some wearing fairy wings — down Queen St. E.
People on the street stopped to gawk and take pictures.
"I think it's awesome," said Sam Paessler, 21. "I wouldn't do it myself. We already have the right (to go topless), but when someone does it, it's still a big uproar. You shouldn't get in trouble for it."
But others shook their heads in disbelief.
"It's kind of silly," said one man, who did not wish to be identified. "I don't know what they're proving ... but eye candy is always nice."
Escorted by six cops on bicycles, the group danced. Some people on the street agreed to sign a topless advocacy petition that was circulating. Among the supporters were men sporting red bikini tops over their chests.
"There are two ways to go: Women have to have the freedom to go topless or men have to go like women, so there's no discrimination," said marcher Norberto Barroso. "It's a beginning of a revolution. We are sure with time, women and men need to be free. It's going to come."
GoTopless.org is an American organization with a Canadian branch. A similar event was held recently in Venice Beach, Calif.
The group is part of the Raelian Movement, which was founded in 1974 by Rael, former French journalist Claude Vorilhon, who believes life on Earth was started by extra-terrestrials.