Last week I opened my email to find a message from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police legal department confirming, after three months of conversation, that public female bare-chestedness is legal in Pennsylvania.
Here’s what they wrote:
“CONCLUSION There is no City or State law which expressly prohibits or even addresses the act of appearing bare-breasted in public. Based upon the information provided to the Law Department, the City does not appear to have any legal grounds under the City Code or Title 18 (i.e. the Commonwealth’s Crimes Code) to cite or arrest women for being bare-chested without any additional sexual or criminal behavior associated therewith. The City is preempted from regulating criminal conduct on its own so we only have state law with which to work.”
Pittsburgh is divided into six police zones, each with a police station and command structure, so just to make sure everyone was on the same page, we visited the Zone 4 station to tell the officer in charge that we would be walking and riding through Frick Park that afternoon.
As we suspected, the sergeant was completely unaware of the situation (understandable, completely) so we provided him the email and all the necessary contacts to confirm our information. We also gave him two hours lead time before we would be in the park, which he thanked us repeatedly for doing. He used his time to contact his patrol units to tell them we were not to be confronted if we were merely bare-chested and not committing a crime. He admitted this was all new to him, we shared some laughs and he assured us he did not want his officers confronting or arresting us simply because they were unaware of the law.
He also contacted his commander, and in fact the PBP wrote to me last week to tell me they would be sharing the information with all six zone commanders. We are now working on securing similar assurances and expressions of understanding from the various campus and park police forces in the city.
Armed with our written and verbal assurances, our group went out and enjoyed a beautiful, quiet, drama-free visit to the park. No negative interactions at all. We spent two hours bare-chested on an unseasonably warm evening, tossing a Frisbee, walking, visiting with dogs, meeting people and generally relaxing in the sun. Many people walked by, many clearly detoured to bring them closer to us even though we had chosen a spot to allow people the choice of moving away if they wished, three different sets of parents with children came over for a chat or a closer look, and several groups stopped to offer support or toss the Frisbee with us.
About an hour in, a couple approached us to warn us there were three police SUV’s parked at the trail head. We thanked them and told them we were okay, that we were making a legal act and that the zone 4 command staff had already confirmed all of this with us this morning. They were excited for us and fascinated.
Sure enough, a police SUV appeared at a distance, followed shortly thereafter by two foot patrolmen, all of whom kept a distance, talked quietly into phones, in plain view of the passersby, and after a minute or two left without confronting us at all.
Pittsburgh is a beautiful city, full of progressive people, vibrant history, and exciting developments. I hope it continues to go well for women wishing to go bare-chested there. There might be hitches along the way, and of course people will call 911 for awhile, but the start has been brilliant.
And with a group of women in Pittsburgh ready to go bare-chested when the weather turns warm again, progress looks good. Thank you to all the Pittsburgh friends who reached out to me and asked me to be involved in this conversation. Several people helped with information, introductions and support. I’m very excited.
Ponder the geography… Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Columbus, Ohio and parts of North Carolina. Now if I can just get my own state of Maryland settled (working on it, believe me!) that is a major, contiguous, heavily-populated chunk of the east coast established as legally topfree, with women actually exercising the freedom.
Our own video camera failed us, but one of the Pittsburgh crew had placed his camera on a stump and captured a half-hour of blanket time and Frisbee toss, complete with the normal unaffected passersby.
Completely boring, which is of course, quite exciting.