According to reports, roaming, free-lance, costumed ‘characters’ in New York City’s Times Square are protesting the NYPD’s informational campaign informing visitors that tipping said characters is not mandatory. On Tuesday, August 19th, a number of them took their ‘heads’ off and showed their (real) faces to protest this “hostile move” by the local police. These ‘giant Elmos, Mickey and Minnie Mouses, Statues of Liberty, and various other beloved children’s characters’ are, in reality, mostly Spanish speaking immigrants. (To quote an article by Verena Dobnik in the Associated Press). One prominent protester’s sign read, “We make the world smile.”
The police embarked on this informational campaign after a string of recent incidents in which some of the ‘characters’ assaulted tourists. Others were allegedly guilty of harassing people and groping women. Things came to a head last month when ‘a’ Spider-Man demanding money punched a police officer who was telling a woman she was not obligated to pay.
“We need to be respected”… said one of the characters… who was dressed as Minnie Mouse.
According to the Associated Press article, the executive director of La Fuente, a pro-immigrant nonprofit that helped organize the performers, said, “it’s their First Amendment right to entertain people.”
That’s as may be. I’m all about First Amendment rights. And entertainment.
I just didn’t think that harassment and assault were protected under the First Amendment. Or would earn one much respect.
In a twisted way, seeing ‘Spider-Man’ punch a police officer might be entertaining to some. But, seeing, say, my wife get groped by Mickey- or Minnie- Mouse isn’t going to make me smile. And that’s a tip I will give to these ‘characters’.