Written by Matthew Harper. Media by Bobby Williams.
It’s reasonable to assume that at some point in each and every one of our lives, we will look over at the random Sesame Street character costume still hanging in our closets – the one we put there after needing it for our godson Jimmy’s sixth birthday party, of course — and think “You know, I should really put that thing to good use again someday.”
Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez, resident of what many refer to as the “greatest city in the world,” New York, was one such soul who just wanted to put his Cookie Monster in action again. Unfortunately, his idea of putting said blue, fuzzy suit in action was to extort money from people by charging for photos, yelling obscenities at them, and then knocking over a 2-year-old. It turns out that begging for money using a costume for a character you don’t have the rights to and then assaulting a small child is illegal in this nation, though, so Quiroz-Lopez was arrested the next day for multiple charges, including assault, child endangering, and “aggressive begging” (Fox News).
The specific incident that led to the arrest took place the weekend of April 6th and April 7th and has stirred a lot of public outcry, as well as possible large-scale legal ramifications. This child assault alone would likely have been enough to get the gears of the New York City legal system turning, but it’s sadly not the first incident involving costumed characters in Times Square harassing the tourists. Five months ago a man dressed as Mario was charged with groping a woman. In September of last year, a man named Adam Sandler got arrested for shouting anti-semitic slurs at tourists while dressed as Elmo. Sadly it wasn’t that Adam Sandler.
While lawmakers try to find ways to get the costumed menaces off of the streets, including propositions to force the characters to have licenses to “perform” and another to outright ban the practice (Fox News), others are crying foul as though taking away the right to harass those in their vicinity is impeding on the First Amendment rights of the people in question. It’s important to remember that many of the costumed people are immigrants attempting to get started living in this country, and technically they’re not allowed to charge anyone they interact with for money, instead relying on tips that aren’t to exceed $5 (AP). The NYPD says that incidents such as the Cookie Monster one are rare.
According to the Associated Press, the Sesame Workshop, who own Cookie Monster and Elmo, are looking into what action they can take to prevent future situations like the one that unfolded that led to Osvaldo Quiroz-Lopez’s arrest. As for the little boy who was knocked over by the deranged man in the seemingly friendly costume? He says he doesn’t like the character anymore “because Cookie Monster give me boo-boo” (WNBC-TV).