Anni Ma, 25, was arrested at a rally for Senator Bernie Sanders on March 23 in Los Angeles, and has now filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging that the arresting police officers used excessive force and assaulted her. Ma was arrested on suspicion of indecent exposure outside the rally. She is an activist for the equal rights campaign known as “Free The Nipple,” which asserts that women should have equal toplessness rights as men.
Ma was protesting outside the Wiltern Theatre where Sanders was holding a rally for his presidential campaign. Ma admits that at one point during the evening she had tape on her chest that had the words “Free the Nipple” and “Feel the Bern” written on them. Above her chest, the word “Equality” was written. She says she removed the tape, according to the text of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court’s Central District of California. She asserts that she was advocating for the equal rights and equal treatment of women. In her complaint she noted that she never exposed her genitals or sex organs. The complaint states that “‘mammary glands’ are obviously not sex organs,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Part of my fight for equality is normalizing women’s rights to feed their children in public… https://t.co/NNH6j9AVla
— Anni Ma (@AnniMa1016) July 29, 2016
Ma says in the complaint that LAPD officers grabbed her, pressed her against a poll and instructed her to put tape over her nipples or that they would arrest her. She claims that when she did not respond to the officer, one held her arms and pushed her toward the ground to handcuff her.
The lawsuit says that as she was being arrested, she shouted, “Feel the Bern” and “My body, my choice.”
“Funny story, many years back my Dad told me that back in the 1930s he was chewed out for being topless on a beach. Back then in Florida, even men were not allowed to go topless. It’s a cultural thing and over time cultures change,” Bob Diaz wrote to Ma on Vimeo.
She was was held on $10,000 bail on a count of indecent exposure, and released the following day.
The complaint names two LAPD officers and claims that her civil rights, including her right to peaceful assembly and free speech” were violated. She calls her arrest unlawful and says that the arresting officers applied a “gender biased” interpretation of the California Law. California Law stipulates that people can not show their “private parts,” but Ma argues that if male nipples are not considered private parts, then female nipples are also not private parts.
“Every person who willfully and lewdly, either:
“1. Exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed thereby; or,
“2. Procures, counsels, or assists any person so to expose himself or take part in any model artist exhibition, or to make any other exhibition of himself to public view, or the view of any number of persons, such as is offensive to decency, or is adapted to excite to vicious or lewd thoughts or acts,
“is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
“This offensive contact by [police] was without consent, unwanted and not warranted by any exigency of the circumstances,” Ma’s lawsuit states. She seeks damages for mental and emotional distress, physical injuries and bodily harm, medical expenses, bail costs, and legal fees.
Ma also has a court date of September 2, 2016, according to her YouTube posting, for an arrest at a comic convention on July 22 in San Diego. During that incident, Ma said she was wearing tape, pasties and her backpack on her chest when she was arrested for public nudity and delaying an officer.
— JonnyMudd Projectile (@JonnyMudd) July 16, 2016
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]