A man offering free hugs in New York’s Times Square stands accused of punching a female Canadian tourist in the face when she didn’t give him a tip.
Jermaine Himmelstein, known as the “free hugs guy”, is one of numerous odd characters, many of them costumed, frequenting Times Square. He customarily carries a cardboard sign offering free hugs.
Police said last week Himmelstein photo-bombed a picture that 22-year-old Canadian tourist Sophie Violene Dauvois was taking, hugged her and then demanded USD 5 for the service.
Police said he attacked Dauvois when she wouldn’t hand over the cash, punching her in the face, CBS reported.
Himmelstein faces charges of attempted robbery and fraudulent accosting. The New York Daily News has quoted city police chief James O’Neill saying Himmelstein has been arrested 16 times since 2012 in various New York venues, once for throwing a can of soft drink at a woman who refused to hug him.
New York City Council is pressing for new laws to put Times Square characters seeking tips into special zones and forcing them to wear ID badges.
Body-paint-wearing women and costumed characters, often topless, solicit cash in Times Square. Not many people object but the authorities feel that ending pedestrian-only plazas in the busy district would make it more difficult for the “entertainers” to trade.
Written by Peter Needham