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Hollywood superhero street performers should not face arrest, judge rules

November 17, 2010 | 11:03 pm


Wolverine, Batman and Superman should be allowed to hang out on Hollywood Boulevard without fear of arrest, according to a preliminary injunction issued Wednesday against the city of Los Angeles.

The motion protects the performers who dress up as comic book movie characters on Hollywood Boulevard. Many of them have complained of police harassment in recent months.

About two dozen characters were arrested in June on various charges, including blocking a public sidewalk. Since then, according to the performers, the police have effectively forced anyone in costume off Hollywood Boulevard by threatening them with arrest.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson said in his motion granting the preliminary injunction that the actions of the police “selectively and impermissibly” targeted the characters to prevent them from performing and soliciting tips.

"The court is further sensitive that although costumed performance may not be a traditional form of speech, it is without doubt a protected one," Pregerson wrote.

Matt Balke, a performer who dresses as Wolverine, said in a statement that the decision was a victory for the 1st Amendment.

“For the last few months, the police have been bragging that we have no First Amendment rights unless they give them to us," Balke said. "The court’s decision shows who says what the First Amendment means."

Carol Sobel, the attorney representing Balke and several other plaintiffs in the case, said she expected the performers to be back out on Hollywood Boulevard this weekend.


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-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Police arrest performer on Hollywood Boulevard. Credit: Los Angeles Times.