The Huffington Post
Spider Man was arrested Friday in Times Square for allegedly groping a woman, according to CBS New York.
A man dressed as Spider Man, that is. According to CBS, police identified him as 22-year-old Moussa Rabaoui of Queens, one of the many costumed people who roam the tourist-heavy zone dressed as popular TV and comic book characters and ask for small fees in exchange for a photo.
According to a search of court records, Rabaoui was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of forcible touching. The Daily News also reported on his arrest.
The incident follows a slew of other cases in which panhandlers wearing iconic disguises have been arrested for inappropriate behavior. Last week, another Spider-Man imitator, Phillip Williams, was convicted of harassment following an incident with a mother in Times Square earlier this year. (Williams was acquitted of the more serious charge of assault.)
The president of the Times Square Alliance, a coalition of government officials and local business owners, is calling for regulations to govern the costumed characters in the New York tourist destination.
“In the last 10 days alone, we’ve seen two Statues of Liberty arrested, a Spider-Man convicted of harassing a tourist, and now a third character arrested for groping a woman in Times Square,” Times Square Alliance head Tim Tompkins told CBS New York. “The situation is out of control and a licensing and regulatory scheme must be put in place.”
Tompkins previously called for regulations in January, after a Woody character was arrested on sex abuse charges, CNN reported. And last year, a Cookie Monsterallegedly shoved a child, police told CNN.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, toldReuters in 2013 that the ability to put on a costume and go to Times Square is likely protected under the First Amendment. One man who dressed as Elmo told Reuters for that article that he takes home $600 a week from the job. Another character told the AP in 2013 he has made as much as $280 in one six-hour period.
While Tompkins is recommending restrictions, he doesn’t think a complete ban on costumed characters in Times Square is the answer. Instead, he is seeking to establish a licensing system — including background checks — for characters in disguise.
“Quirky in Times Square is OK, creepy is not,” he told PIX11.