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Hundreds of Drunk People Dressed Like Santa Claus Took Over Times Square -- After a Lawyer Talked to All of Them

"SantaCon."

People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus pose in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — The annual costumed pub crawl featuring a horde of sloshed Santas on the streets of Manhattan got underway Saturday with a lesson in the First Amendment.

Santas look at themselves on the big screen TV in Times Square as hundreds of Santas gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images) Santas look at themselves on the big screen TV in Times Square as hundreds of Santas gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel addressed the SantaCon crowd in Times Square about the government's right to reasonably regulate an event that New Yorkers have complained has gotten out of hand in past years.

People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus pose in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images) People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus pose in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

The annual holiday flash-mob-meets-party fell this year on the same day as a planned protest over killings by police, prompting organizers to try to rein in the rowdiness.

SantaCon organizers retained Siegel to advise on the do's and don'ts of public gatherings and 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," their website warns, adding that bad behavior may mean the ultimate lump of coal: no SantaCon next year.

People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrive in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images) People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrive in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a sobering message for SantaCon, which 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. Participants are urged to bring gifts to hand out or prepare performances, and organizers stress that last year's event raised about $60,000 for charities.

People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus take selfies in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images) People dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus take selfies in Times Square as they gather for the annual Santacon festivities on December 13, 2014 in New York. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

But some residents see SantaCon as an onslaught of crass Kringles, soused 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 SantaCon.

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.

One last thing…
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