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Judge orders cops to stop harassing superheroes

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Movie franchises, video games, television shows and the original medium that launched the whole genre, comic books, have zapped us right into an Age of Superheroes.

One might think that Spider-Man, Superman and Batman could fend off any rogues, scoundrels or desperados that were flung their way.

Well, apparently not in the City of Angels. A throng of superheroes, a.k.a. look-alike street performers, recently needed the protection that only our legal system can deliver.

The superhero street performer tradition has burgeoned into a beloved tourist attraction on Tinseltown's famed thoroughfares. The roving artistes are known as the "Hollywood Characters."

Four street performers in particular, Matthias Balke, Melissa Beithan, Paul Harrell and Terrell Tomey, have sued in federal court alleging that they were wrongfully arrested and intimidated by Los Angeles police officers. The lawsuit indicates that the superheroes had actually stopped taking to their street stages due to fear of arrest or police harassment.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson cited First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights of the performers to express themselves on the public sidewalk, as long as they were not panhandling or blocking the walkway.

Judge Pregerson noted that "the court is further sensitive that although costumed performance may not be a traditional form of speech, it is without doubt a protected one."

Although we often take it for granted, our right to freely express ourselves is one of the most precious things that our founding superheroes fought for.