US

NYC's SantaCon kicks off with First Amendment lesson and hopes of less naughty, more nice

FILE- In this Dec. 11, 2010 file photo, SantaCon participants John Paul, center, dressed as an Elf and Michael Smallwood, dressed as Santa, ride the E train downtown New York. The annual event has faced mounting pressure from politicians, police and community groups as it grew from hundreds to thousands of costumed participants in roughly a decade. This year’s festivities fall on the same day as a planned march to protest recent killings of unarmed civilians by police. Santacon organizers are asking celebrants to keep their partying indoors  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE- In this Dec. 11, 2010 file photo, SantaCon participants John Paul, center, dressed as an Elf and Michael Smallwood, dressed as Santa, ride the E train downtown New York. The annual event has faced mounting pressure from politicians, police and community groups as it grew from hundreds to thousands of costumed participants in roughly a decade. This year’s festivities fall on the same day as a planned march to protest recent killings of unarmed civilians by police. Santacon organizers are asking celebrants to keep their partying indoors (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)  (The Associated Press)

New York's costumed pub crawl known as SantaCon is under way after a prominent civil rights lawyer gave attendees lesson in the First Amendment.

Lawyer Norman Siegel said Saturday the government cannot ban SantaCon. But he said the government can reasonably regulate the event.

SantaCon organizers retained Siegel last week as part of an effort to tame the excesses of the daylong party. Attendees started spreading out among midtown bars shortly after he spoke.

New Yorkers have complained in past years about drunken Santas vomiting in the streets. But organizers say last year's SantaCon raised $60,000 for charity, mostly through partnerships with participating bars.

This year's festivities fall on the same day as a planned protest over killings by police.

SantaCon organizers have expressed respect for the demonstration.