LAPD defeats Hollywood Boulevard superheroes

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES Saunter down that street and you'll see the crowds, the stars and all the touristy attractions, but you won't see Superman, the Hulk, Darth Vader or any other of the costumed characters who once lined the sidewalks of Hollywood asking for tips while posing for pictures.

Since May, they have been banished by the /*LAPD*/ as a nuisance, threatened with arrest for loitering, and that doesn't sit well with the Hulk.

"That's like a stab in the hero's heart," says Joe McQueen, shrouded in green.

For that, they're taking their case /*Los Angeles City Hall*/ to protest on the front steps.

"We want to have the First Amendment right to assemble," says the White Power Ranger, Rebecca Holland. "That guarantees to assemble and dress in any we deem fit so long as it's not offensive or lewd."

The LAPD has had a long running problem with some of the characters strong-arming money from tourists or fighting.

Over the past five years, police have busted Chewbacca, Mr. Incredible and even Elmo.

Christopher Dennis, also known as Superman, says banning all the characters strips Hollywood of a valued piece of its character.

"I've been out there for 19 years portraying the character of Superman in Hollywood," Dennis says. "We're taking photos with the children and we're guiding where they want to go. We're more like ambassadors to Hollywood than anything else."

The posers say the city can weed out the law breakers by issuing performance permits like Santa Monica does.

Those who break the law lose their permit, but that plan is not getting any political support, they say.

"There's been approximately 25 to 30 characters arrested and several of them have a civil rights attorney," said Christopher Mitchell, who commonly goes by Darth Vader in the streets of Hollywood. "Free speech, the right to perform, those are covered by the First Amendment."

Only four characters, though, turned up for the City Hall protest.

But that was enough to catch the attention of some sympathetic passers-by.

"I actually like all the super heroes down there and they enjoy it too," said L.A. resident Patrick Sauter.

"I really hope they can work out a compromise that would let them stay because I think they are part of the cool character of Hollywood Boulevard," said Richard Magleby, also from L.A.

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