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Businesses React to Topless Rally

Asheville City leaders have released a letter asking people to steer clear of a controversial rally this Sunday afternoon. The annual Go Topless Rally is back with a new location. Women demonstrating their right to go topless will be gathering in Pritchard Park.

The rally moved from Pack Square to avoid competing with the Big Love Festival. Now, the crowd will culminate in Pritchard Park, which is likely to be swarming with people on a Sunday afternoon.

"It's a melting pot for tourists and locals," says Bill Cooley, owner of a hot dog stand in the area.

Cooley won't be sticking around the for the demonstration over the weekend. He's moving his stand over to Pack Square, where the rally was originally intended to be held but was moved due to the Big Love Festival. Cooley says he enjoys supporting local businesses at the festival, but he's sure a large crowd will be gathering in the park on Sunday.

"I think it distracts and attracts," says Cooley. "I don't think it affects business either way but you do get the gawkers and the phone cameras that pop out all of a sudden."

Ryan Prentiss will be keeping business as usual in the corner of the park Sunday, where he sell coffee from a stand. "I can imagine it drawing more of a crowd, I don't know if that crowd is going to actually buy coffee," laughs Prentiss.

The Asheville City Council has long been opposed to the demonstrations.
"There is consensus among Council that is is disappointing that this comes to our community," says Councilmember Jan Davis.

The city has asked State Rep. Tim Moffitt to introduce legislation making it illegal for a woman to go topless in public, but that bill never made it to a vote. Now, they're making a request folks stay away from the rally.

"We hope people will stay away, stay home, join us in staying away from it because this is not something that we condone," says Davis.
But, for some the message coming Sunday may be hard to avoid. "I'm sure, inevitably, I will experience it simply because it's happening right behind me," says Prentiss.

LaDonna Allison, organizer of the rally, says she is enthusiastic about the new location and hopes it will be an opportunity to educate more people about topless equality.

By: Hope Hanselman
Follow Hope on Twitter @HopeNews13


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