(CN) – Performers dressed as Batman, Wolverine, Catwoman and the Dark Knight should be allowed to solicit tips on Hollywood Boulevard without fear of arrest, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled.
U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson issued an injunction blocking Los Angeles police from arresting or threatening to arrest four individuals who regularly don the costumes of superheroes and comic book characters and ham it up for tourists on Hollywood Boulevard.
Terrell “Tony” Tomey, who has performed as Batman for the past three years, was arrested in June for blocking the public sidewalk in violation of city code.
Fellow street performers Matthias Balke, Melissa Beithan and Paul Harrell — Wolverine, Catwoman and the Dark Knight, respectively — were arrested for the same violation. Christopher Dennis, who dresses as Superman, was arrested for loitering. (Dennis is not a party to the lawsuit.)
They sought an injunction to protect their right to perform and solicit tips on Hollywood Boulevard. None of the superheroes have been convicted or have charges pending.
Los Angeles opposed the injunction, claiming the performers failed to establish that the city has a policy or practice of arresting costumed street performers, or that the superheroes themselves feared arrest.
Pregerson disagreed, saying the plaintiffs “have an ongoing and legitimate fear of arrest that has chilled both costumed performance on Hollywood Boulevard and their active solicitation of tips.”
Pregerson said the arrests are unconstitutional, because performance art is protected speech.
“[A]though costumed performance may not be a traditional form of speech, it is without doubt a protected one,” he wrote.
He said Los Angeles police can’t arrest, ticket or threaten to arrest costumed performers without actual evidence that they’re blocking the sidewalk, loitering or soliciting in violation of city code.