A Wolverine, a Batman, a Joker, and a Cat Woman are among those who have filed suit against the city of Los Angeles and several Los Angeles police officers, alleging their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated during a May and June crackdown on Hollywood Boulevard costumed characters. The suit, which seeks punitive damages, was filed last Friday. In court documents, the characters claim they are too fearful to return to Hollywood Boulevard because they believe they will be arrested again. “I think the [LAPD] has arrested 22 characters by now,” says attorney Carol Sobel, who is representing the characters. Sobel insists that the members of the group have every right to work Hollywood Boulevard and aren't doing anything illegal. “The court needs to tell the police that they can’t keep doing this," she adds. A spokesperson for the City Attorney's office didn't immediately return an email.
Here are the details of the suit:
The four plaintiffs were all arrested and taken into custody between June 2 and June 4. At this point, the great LAPD crackdown of spring 2010 had begun on Hollywood Boulevard. The suit notes "approximately one week earlier, on or around May 28, 2010, several characters on the Hollywood Boulevard were arrested, including an individual who wears a Bumblebee 'Transformer' costume."
The three characters arrested on June 4 claim they were standing on a wide section of sidewalk and "did not solicit any tip, donation or other form of monetary or non-monetary payment" from anyone walking by (although some people did stop to take pictures). Ultimately, in all the cases discussed in the filing, charges were either never filed or later dropped.
Despite the lack of prosecution, the characters say that none of them have performed on Hollywood Boulevard since the arrests, and that they've "avoided walking in the area, even though they all live within a short distance of the Hollywood and Highland complex."
Additionally, the four characters refuse to enter the area even when they are non-costumed for fear they will be arrested. The suit claims a non-costumed character known by the plaintiffs was arrested for loitering, and that the police told that man "they knew who he was even though he was not in costume."
Moreover, the suit suggests that these superheroes were not treated with respect by the LAPD. Following her arrest earlier this year, Cat Woman was allegedly "released with two bus tokens to get home in the middle of the night."
The characters are asking for compensatory and punitive damages, a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against the police. According to attorney Sobel, it is both legal for the characters to pose with tourists on Hollywood Boulevard and to solicit donations.
As the Times reported last fall, life on Hollywood Boulevard for these characters has often been fraught with drama.
· No Superhero Spared in Character Crackdown on Hollywood Boulevard [Curbed LA]
· Another Hollywood Blvd Arrest, And Superhero Community Can Only Ask, Why? [Curbed LA]