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Keane Act Repealed, Superhero Panhandlers Free to Menace Tourists

A U.S. Judge blocked this week a police crackdown on the costumed performers who populate Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. For years, street actors have earned a living on tips from tourists who wish to be photographed with Superman, Spider-Man, Jack Sparrow, the Incredible Hulk, Marilyn Monroe and other pop culture icons. But recent breakouts of violence and other unpleasantries amongst some unruly performers and tourists led to a kind of Watchmen-esque Keane Act, whereby the street superheroes were outlawed. The ruling has reversed this police action on the grounds of protected speech.”It may not seem like a traditional form of free speech, but their right to perform is protected under that provision of the U.S. Constitution,” wrote Judge Dean Peterson.

However, local business owners are not happy with the ruling. Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler said the Hollywood Blvd. characters are a menace to tourists, sometimes refusing to allow visitors to pass by the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre without a toll in the form of a photograph and gratuity.

The following video is from Los Angeles’ KTLA news, explaining the original ban.

“We think that the judge did not bother to take into consideration the situation on the street,” Gubler told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I would just say it’s basically a license for these characters to harass the public. “We have had no one – and I repeat not one person – who has said they miss the characters.”

As someone who’s lived in the neighborhood for many years, I can confirm that the street performers are sometimes a nuisance, and many of them are just really creepy and weird. The aging Superman actor has had to augment his costume with artificial muscle mass through which copious amounts of sweat have no problem passing, and, most depressingly, the Batman performer is rumored among Hollywood residents to be someone prone to acts of violence and drunkenness.

However, some of the characters can be entertaining. It’s not uncommon to witness the Spider-Man actor climbing up street lamps or clinging to the walls of the Jimmy Kimmel Live building, where he leaps out to frighten unsuspecting passersby.

While I never missed the characters on the few occasions they actually adhered to police warnings, they are nevertheless part of the makeup of my neighborhood. Indeed, the costumed superheroes in particular were the subject of a documentary film, Superheroes Strike Back, the trailer for which you can see below.

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