WASHINGTON, DC—Protesting years of discriminatory treatment at the hands of America's restaurants and stores, an estimated 800,000 shirtless and shoeless citizens marched on the nation's capital Monday to demand equal-service rights.
Chanting the slogan, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Justice," members of the nation's shirtless and shoeless communities joined together in a rare act of solidarity. Dubbed "The Million Incompletely Dressed Man March," the demonstration began on I-66 in Arlington, VA—with the barefoot participants walking on the white center line to protect the soles of their feet from burning—and concluded with a rally on the National Mall in Washington.
"For decades, law-abiding Americans have been denied service in restaurants and stores, simply because of the exposedness of their skin," said Bud Hutchins, president of the National Association For The Advancement Of Shirtless People. "This is a direct attack on our civil rights, especially in the summer months when you really need to stay cool."
Waving a copy of the U.S. Constitution, Hutchins added, "Nowhere in this revered document does it say, 'But only if the guy has a shirt on.' Our Founding Fathers would be appalled to see basic service rights denied to the differently clothed."
Wiping a tear from his eye, Hutchins recalled being denied entry to a Marble Falls, TX, 7-Eleven at the age of eight. He said the store manager told him directly that he wasn't welcome in the store because of his bare torso.
"I could not understand how a nation as great as America could say to me, 'You're not as good as your shirt-wearing neighbor,'" Hutchins said. "So I just sat outside the store, watching all the shirted people freely come and go with their Big Gulps and their candy bars. When something like that happens to you at such a young age, you don't soon forget it."
Standing before the shirtless, shoeless throngs, Barefoot America! director Diane Wallace said: "As if centuries of suffering from gravel roads and hot blacktop were not enough, the powers-that-be continue to deny us restaurant seating, theater admission, and countless other niceties enjoyed by the shoed. We say, no more."
The coalition is calling for the passage of a constitutional amendment or other legislation guaranteeing "equal access to businesses and services for all citizens, regardless of one's degree of bodily coverage." If no such legislation is passed, NAASP members have threatened to retaliate with Denny's-booth sit-ins, Burger King boycotts, and a program of exercise designed to make their torsos glisten with malodorous sweat.
Despite such threats, lawmakers remain unbowed.
"Why can't these folks just put on some shirts and shoes if they want a Whopper?" U.S. Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) asked. "If we cave in to these demands, next year, it'll be trouserless Americans demanding equal access to Tavern On The Green. After that, the underpantsless will be calling for priority seating on airplanes. Then, people who are completely naked will want preferential treatment in college admissions. These people can put on a full wardrobe and get treated like everybody else."
Hutchins dismissed Craig's response.
"I'm hardly surprised [Sen. Craig] ascribes to the repugnant and prejudicial notion that we have 'chosen' to be this way," Hutchins said. "Well, I've got news for you, senator: This is the way I am. I was born not wearing a shirt."