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Viral Santa brawl shows ugly side of Santacon, raises calls for ban [VIDEO]

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NEW YORK (PIX11) – It’s a video that’s got plenty of people talking, and it’s attracted hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.  But a dozen or so Santas in a knock down, drag out brawl also has people calling for an end to the unofficial event known as Santacon.  The fight is also the subject of a police investigation.

The video is titled Santapocalypse NYC 2013 on YouTube, and since it shows 12 or 13 people dressed in Santa outfits pummeling, kicking, beating and otherwise physically abusing one another, it seems that the title is fitting.

It was a scene so loud and so remarkable that a group of people on the fifth floor of the building across the street from the punch-out scene, at the corner of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue, started taking cellphone video.

It’s gotten big attention online, but is also prompting a new chorus of reactions to Santacon that are similar to that of Leon Frederick.  The gardener at Stuyvesant Square Park, which is at the end of the block where the brawl took place, made his opinion clearly known when he was asked if he wanted Santacon revelers to return next year.

“No,” he said.  “No.  No.”

Santacon participants, who communicate through social media to find gathering locations and times, convene in a central location before noon on the second Saturday of December. This year, the Santa suit clad revelers agreed to get together in Tompkins Square Park on the Lower East Side.

On the way to the rendezvous point, though, partyers traveled in groups from subway and commuter rail stops.  Frederick, who maintains plantings in the park on Second Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets, said he had to tell Santacon participants to leave his park, after they were too rowdy on their journey to the rendezvous point on the far East Side.

“They broke one of my trees to hang mistletoe,” said Frederick.  “I have to clean when they mess up, and it’s not a fun job.”

And once the estimated 30,000 Santas finish partying en masse early Saturday afternoon each year, they fan out to area bars and parties.

“It’s great during the day,” said Thomas Quatto.  “At night, it gets crazy.”

He should know.  He worked in a restaurant in the East Village during last year’s Santacon, and still has unpleasant memories of dealing with customers after the event.

“They were so drunk,” Quatto said.  “One guy couldn’t make it to the bathroom, threw up all over.  Oh my God, it was disgusting.”  

After dark, around 8:45, is when the so-called Santa brawl took place Saturday.  PIX11 News spoke with someone, who would not give his name, who said that he was in the room in the fifth floor apartment where the battle of the Santas was recorded.  He said that he and his friends who recorded the video couldn’t identify who the brawlers were, because almost all of them were dressed alike.

Police are investigating the incident, but nobody involved filed a complaint.  Also, all of them had left the scene by the time police showed up.

“This really is a problem for New York City,” said Diem Boyd.  She is the president of LES Dwellers, a Lower East Side community group.  She’s an outspoken critic of the Santacon gathering.

Boyd said that because Santacon is an informal, unofficial gathering, it can’t be controlled.  Instead, she told PIX11 news, residents can do what her organization intends to do months before next year’s gathering.  They’ll post a letter to the Santacon website asking revelers to stay out of their neighborhood.

This year, LES Dwellers hung posters in their community calling on partyers to stay away, and for neighborhood bars not to serve them.  She said it worked.  “They bypassed the Lower East Side.  They went to the East Village [instead].”

She’s hoping that, by neighborhoods expressing their concerns to organizers, Santacon participants will in the future do a better job of restraining themselves.

For its part, the Blue Angels public affairs officer told PIX11 News that the Navy does not issue warnings about flyovers.  The FAA does.  It apparently gave at least 16 hours notice about the Lower Manhattan air formation activity.

Reaction to it on Friday may serve as a guide for future, similar events, showing that greater and more widespread notification may be helpful.

SEE the original YouTube footage (WARNING: Graphic language, violence):