NEW YORK (AP) — New York City officials are turning up the heat on the Elmo, Cookie Monster and Statues of Liberty impersonators who often demand money for posing in photos with tourists.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says it’s time to take what he calls “some real steps to regulate this reality” — a spike in Times Square costumed characters who are behaving badly. Most recently, a Spider-Man was accused of punching a police officer.
Legal experts say reining in the characters could violate free-speech rights possibly by requiring licenses and background checks.
They say it comes down to whether the characters can be considered a form of innocent street performance for tips, protected by the First Amendment. Or, they ask, is it commercial activity subject to regulation?