SantaCon kicks off with hopes of less naughtiness during annual pub crawl


AP

NEW YORK–The annual pub crawl featuring thousands of drunken Santas on the streets of New York City began Saturday with a lawyer’s lecture after complaints about participants’ wild behavior.

The annual holiday flash-mob-meets-party called SantaCon fell on the same day as a planned protest over killings by police, prompting organizers to try to calm things down.

Civil liberties lawyer Norman Siegel addressed the SantaCon crowd in Times Square about the government’s right to reasonably regulate the event.

SantaCon organizers instructed participants to stick to bars that welcome them and party inside instead of on the streets.

��It’s more important this year than ever to pace yourself, watch out for your elves and stay safe,�� the event’s website warns, adding that bad behavior may mean no SantaCon next year.

The event has faced mounting pressure from politicians, police and community groups as it has grown from hundreds to thousands of costumed participants in roughly a decade.

Aficionados say SantaCon is lighthearted communal fun that tweaks the nose of Christmastime consumerism. Organizers stress that last year’s event raised about US$60,000 for charities.

But some residents see SantaCon as an onslaught of crass Santa Clauses, inebriated elves and anything-but-grandmotherly Mrs. Clauses. There have been two arrests and 85 summonses for disorderly conduct, open alcohol containers and other offenses during the last two SantaCons, and an online video captured people in Santa suits fighting on the evening of last year’s event.

Last year, residents of Manhattan’s bar-filled Lower East Side posted ��SantaCon free zone�� signs, and local commuter railroads began banning alcoholic drinks on their trains during the gathering.