December 11, 2014 / 11:20 PM / 4 years ago

SantaCon to scale back festivities in NYC due to protests

NEW YORK (Reuters) - SantaCon, an annual New York City bar crawl that typically draws tens of thousands of revelers dressed like Santa Claus, will “scale back” this year when a march against police brutality is also planned for Saturday.

Revelers dressed as Santa Claus gather at a park during the SantaCon event in New York December 14, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Originating in San Francisco as a counterpoint to Christmas consumerism, SantaCon has spread to 300 U.S. cities, according to organizers, and New York’s version is the largest. 

But on Saturday it will take place on the same day as the Millions March, potentially bringing two large crowds in close proximity in Manhattan.

“Due to the planned protests this Saturday, Santacon is scaling back this weekend’s festivities in order to create the lowest possible impact,” organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page.

The Millions March comes after more than two weeks of protests over decisions not to charge white police officers involved in the deaths of two black men, Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.

More than 40,000 people have said they would join the march on the rally’s Facebook page. A rally will begin at 2 p.m. in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park.

SantaCon runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It has drawn big crowds in the past, with about 30,000 alcohol-fueled participants last year, according to media reports. The organizers declined to estimate the number of participants last year.In the past, the pub crawl’s “route” has been kept secret until the day before. This year, it may take place in midtown Manhattan, a lawyer working with the organizers said.

“My understanding is that it’s going to be in Midtown Manhattan,” Norman Siegel, a prominent civil rights attorney, said. Organizers did not respond to a request for confirmation but have said they would make a map public later on Thursday.

The event was initially planned for Bushwick, a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn, but business owners objected because of complaints in years past about rowdy behavior, urinating and vomiting in public by some SantaCon revelers.

A local community board meeting told organizers “that they were not welcome here,” said Willie Morales, who works for the board.

New York’s SantaCon organizers have taken to Twitter to urge participants to behave themselves.

“Santa leaves presents, not puddles of puke,” a Tweet posted on the group’s official account reads.

“It does bring a lot of people, but they’re destructive,” said Jesse Levitt, who co-owns Bushwick’s Kings County Saloon. “They’re the worst kind of customers, but instead of one or two of them, you have thousands of them all together.”

Editting By Frank McGurty, Bernard Orr

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