- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Springfield City Council member is at the center of a recall effort over his response to topless rallies at which women protest unequal rights.

Councilman Justin Burnett successfully pushed for a change in Springfield’s indecent exposure ordinance in response to the Free the Nipple movement.

Over the weekend, two groups formed on Facebook in an effort to weigh in on the controversy. A group called “Remove Justin Burnett from City Council” has nearly 1,000 members, while a group that formed in support of Burnett after the opposing group launched has almost 1,500 members.

Opponents need to collect about 1,900 signatures on a petition to put Burnett’s recall on a ballot, The Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1FuNtfN ) reports. If the effort is successful, voters will decide next March whether he should be removed from office.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Jennifer Wilken, organizer of the page supporting Burnett. “I’m just mind-boggled. Getting that many signatures in one zone is going to be a difficult task.”

Only residents of Zone 2 are able to sign the petition or vote in the recall election.

Wilken said she started “We Support Justin Burnett” to show him that he’s backed by members of the community. She also started a group that gained many followers after the topless rallies.

“We had 900 people in our other group that supported him, so we knew he did (have support),” she said. “And if the petition process does succeed, we have a group to say ‘Hey, you need to go vote.”

Katie Webb, who helped organize the group seeking Burnett’s removal from office, said she’s been weary of the councilman “from the very beginning.” But his response to the Free the Nipple protesters, which she called harsh and belittling, was what caused her to take action, she said.

The opposing group currently is in the process of organizing a recall petition, mobilizing volunteers and fundraising, Webb said.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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