Nude protesters criticize B.C. arts cuts

Three topless female protesters tested the limits of artistic freedom Thursday at a protest outside the B.C. legislature against government cuts to the arts.

The chanting women painted green, with messages such as "The Naked Truth" and "Bare Minimum" scribbled on their bodies, wore black tape and loin cloths.

They said they were protesting against what they claim is a 92 per cent cut in provincial arts funding by taking off 92 per cent of their clothing.

But their demonstration on a chilly afternoon sparked a debate over artistic licence when organizers told them their costumes weren't approved protest attire for the legislature.

Organizer Dianne Searle said she was also forced to tell the women to quiet down after guards threatened to shut down the entire event.

Searle said she applied for a protest permit at the legislature and one of the guidelines for her being granted the permit was that the event would be trouble-free.

Security guards issued warning

"They surprised us completely," Searle said. "We made it very clear it was an arts rally. It was supposed to be peaceful, positive, a pretty low-key slant. That was the basis on which I signed my name on the paper."

Searle said the guards told her the topless protesters were "not cool."

She said they also told her the noisy behaviour of the topless protesters, chanting loudly at the front of a large crowd, was testing the bounds of the permit.

"That's when I had to tell them [the demonstrators], 'You can't do that here,"' she said. "They obviously weren't happy about that."

The protest continued after the topless women joined a group of about 300 people calling on the Liberal government to restore recent cuts to arts funding.