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Hug Thug

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Here’s video of NYC’s notorious Hug Thug, Jermaine (a.k.a., Jeremy) Himmelstein, flattening a young lady from Canada in Times Square a couple of days ago.

Here’s another version of the video that shows more of the lead-up to the attack.

Putin’s Russia Today plays the story as more evidence of cruel capitalist budget cuts:

‘Free hugs guy’ with autism who punched tourist harassed by NYPD for years
Published time: 14 May, 2016 13:16

… Jermaine Himmelstein is well known in the Big Apple as the “Free Hugs Guy,” and because of the low level of financial support given to Americans struggling with mental health issues, he relies on tips in exchange for photographs to survive.

Himmelstein punched another young lady in late April in the 42nd Street subway station when she said she didn’t want a hug, and nobody in authority did anything at all about him, with the cops telling the victim he’d just get off because he’s a loon so whaddaya whaddaya (at that point he’d been arrested 15 times).

As I said before, I live on the other side of the country and even I’d been hearing for years about this Free Hugs Guy going to tourist destinations and slugging young women. Here’s his picture in the NY Post in 2012 and here’s a 2013 NYT article about him injuring a girl.

WABC found four earlier accounts of Himmelstein hitting women. For example, from the Coney Island Blog last year:

“Free Hugs” Guy Punches Out Girl On Coney Island Boardwalk!
Posted on April 20, 2015 by The Coney Island Blog in Residents, Visitors // 6 Comments

The man often seen strolling the boardwalk in Coney Island carrying a “Free Hugs” sign may also carry a mean punch! Local resident Vin Torre along with other witnesses contacted us over the weekend, notifying us that on last Saturday, April 18th at 2:10pm, Mr. “Free Hugs” knocked out a young girl in her early 20’s directly in front of the boardwalk entrance to Luna Park. According to Torre ” Me and my wife saw this girl on the floor with her face swollen! The girl’s face was bad! We called 911 and the girl’s friends pointed to the guy holding the “Free Hugs” sign! We were outraged because minutes after the incident he was back on the boardwalk giving out free hugs!”

I have no idea why the Hug Thug had escaped serious trouble for so long: maybe his Autistic Mike Tyson Jr. affect causes judges not to take him seriously? Yet, shouldn’t the fact that he talks just like Mike Tyson have been cause for alarm, not reassurance?

It’s past time to lock this guy up for a long while.

But I was thinking about the general problem of people who aren’t quite right in the head. It’s expensive to keep individuals with a less severe track record locked up year after year, but it’s irresponsible to the public safety just to let them go unheeded. It seems like there may be more technocratic things we could be doing to keep them away from situations they have a track record of not being able to deal with.

The British have been trying out various Clockwork Orange techniques as an alternative to long prison terms. They used court orders against specific behaviors that tend to lead a particular individual to trouble: Labour called them Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs) from 1998-2014, but they became unpopular and the Tories have changed the name. Still, I suspect that the new high tech GPS tracking technology we all carry around with us could be useful.

For example, places like Times Square and Hollywood Boulevard are full of people hustling for tips from tourists who, unlike Jermaine, go to the trouble of dressing up as comic book character. Most of them don’t cause too much trouble. But occasionally the Hulk Smash urge takes over. For example, from the L.A. Times in 2007:

The buzz on Hollywood Boulevard on Friday was over the Chewbacca who police say crossed over to the dark side in front of hundreds of tourists at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

LAPD officers arrested “Star Wars” street performer Frederick Evan Young, 44, of Los Angeles in his furry brown wookiee costume Thursday on a charge of misdemeanor battery for allegedly head-butting a tour guide who complained about Young’s treatment of two visitors from Japan.

The incident — witnessed by Superman and other impersonators — is the latest clash outside the landmark cinema between visitors and performers dressed as movie and cartoon characters. They collect tips from tourists who pose for pictures and watch them perform in front of the theater, where generations of stars have placed their footprints in concrete.

Tourists have complained that some costumed characters turn abusive when they refuse to pay them to pose for pictures. Two years ago, actors dressed as superhero Mr. Incredible, Elmo the Muppet and the dark-hooded character from the movie “Scream” were arrested for aggressive begging. More recently, an actor portraying slasher movie favorite Freddie Krueger was taken into custody for allegedly stabbing another man, although no charges were filed.

It would seem like that when you lets these folks out of the jug after doing their time you could make them wear a GPS ankle bracelet for a couple of years with the warning that they have to stay away from tourist sites. If they go hang out in Times Square, they get a call from their parole officer.

Perhaps fittingly, the idea of the ankle monitor came from Spider-Man. From Comic Book Resources:

A New Mexico district court judge, Jack Love, read a late 70s Spider-Man comic strip in the newspaper, where the villain Kingpin was tracking Spider-Man via an electronic tracking bracelet on Spider-Man’s wrist. Love theorized that such a device would work in real life, as well. He struck an arrangement with a computer salesman to develop the devices, which were introduced in New Mexico in 1983.

• Tags: Crime, Hug Thug 
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Jermaine Himmelstein

Update: Here’s overhead camera video from WABC-TV of the Hug Thug punching a girl in the face in Times Square earlier this week.

Pretty sickening:

I live 3000 miles away, but even I have been hearing for years, both from the media and through the grapevine when I visited New York a few years ago, about this psycho, who turns out to be named Jermaine (a.k.a., Jeremy) Himmelstein, who goes to tourist destinations like Times Square and Washington Square, holds up a “Free Hugs” sign, and then often slugs girls in the face if they say no or won’t give him money.

For example, the New York Times ran one of its classic upside down articles about this dangerous loon back in 2013. As I’ve pointed out before, the NYT often write its articles in the reverse order of relevance, saving what’s interesting and important only for those who stick it out through the soporific opening paragraphs. I think the idea is to not disturb the worldviews of the Nice People who subscribe to the Times, while allowing its reporters to eventually do what they want to do: report the news to the hard core of readers who are actually interested in news rather than in just having their self-image buffed. For example:

The Hugs Are Free, as Advertised, but Not Always Welcome

The sign is simple, eight big letters on a piece of cardboard, but when Jermaine Himmelstein takes it outside and holds it over his head and smiles, it acts like a strong magnet.

Total strangers smile back, and walk over and wrap the skinny young man in a quick embrace. Then they walk away, and someone else, drawn by the smile and the eight letters, steps up, arms outstretched.

The sign reads, “Free Hugs.” Mr. Himmelstein, 21, has been carrying it to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village for months.

“I give out free hugs,” he explained, “to make people stay better.” When somebody wants a picture of a hug in progress, he asks for a dollar in return, shoving the bills into a back pocket.

Viewed this way, one fleeting hug at a time, the enterprise seems harmless enough, even charming, and Mr. Himmelstein seems a welcome addition to New York City’s cast of colorful characters.

Okay, the Nice People have probably stopped reading the article by now and so the poor reporter can finally move on to reporting the actual news, which is that there’s a maniac loose on the streets of Manhattan who punches female passer-bys and nobody in authority is willing to do what it takes to get him off the streets:

But closer inspection darkens that portrait.

Mr. Himmelstein can become glowering and intense in an instant. His playful banter turns badgering when he is told no, as he was after approaching a group of New York University students on a bench on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’m a germaphobe,” a freshman named Claudia, 18, told Mr. Himmelstein as a way to get rid of him.

But he kept coming back and offering hugs, over and over. She said out of his earshot: “I don’t like him. He’s aggressive.”

Another student, Estelle, 22, said complaints about Mr. Himmelstein were not uncommon. “He’s like a legend at our school,” she said.

His parents, Denise and Tyrone Himmelstein, both 49, live in the Jefferson Houses in East Harlem, and until recently had no idea that this was what Jermaine did when he left the house. They thought he was with friends. Not becoming a creepy legend.

“This is not what I wanted for my son,” Ms. Himmelstein said on Thursday. “We don’t condone this.”

Jermaine, like their older son, is autistic, she said. He graduated from Washington Irving High School last June at age 20, and she proudly displayed his diploma for a visitor this week while Jermaine was out.

He is a good young man when he’s home, she said, and he does not want for money or affection.

“Jermaine comes from a home where we give him hugs,” she said. …

Jermaine Himmelstein keeps a rigid schedule, and is always home by 8:30 p.m., so his parents worried when, on April 9, the hour came and went with no word.

Shortly before 3 p.m. that day, a female student from N.Y.U. entered the park, and Mr. Himmelstein approached with his sign.

“She says, ‘I have a boyfriend,’ and this and that,” Mr. Himmelstein recalled in the park this week. “Thinking I’m desperate, having no friends,” he became upset, he said.

“I went and got a can out of the trash and filled it with water and I marched right back to her and threw it right in her face until her face was swollen,” he said. “Then I got a cup of ice coffee and I threw it at her.”

The can hurt the woman’s cheek, the police said, and Mr. Himmelstein was arrested and charged with assault.

“I’m a little bit disappointed in me,” he said this week, and tried explaining what had set him off. “ ‘No, thanks,’ is the better thing. I don’t like just ‘No.’ ” …

Now, that was in the New York Times three years ago, yet this guy stayed on the streets, punching girls. From the New York Daily News yesterday:

Times Square ‘Hug Guy’ punches Canadian tourist, 22, because she didn’t give him a tip

Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016, 9:34 AM

He usually charges about $5 for hugs, but the punches are apparently free!

A 24-year-old wacko who offers hugs for tips in Times Square clocked a 22-year-old Canadian tourist when she refused to give him any cash on Thursday, officials said.

“Free Hugs Guy” Jermaine Himmelstein socked the woman in the right eye following an 11 a.m. clash outside the T-Mobile store on Broadway near W. 45th St.

The young woman and a friend were walking through Times Square when Himmelstein approached, holding a sign reading “FREE HUGS.”

Himmelstein embraced one of the women and took a photo, but began throwing fists when they wouldn’t fork over any loot, cops said. He punched his victim, identified by police sources as Sophie Violene Dauvois, and ran off down Seventh Ave.

Dauvois suffered a swollen and bloody black eye and was taken to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital for treatment.

Himmelstein disappeared into Times Square, but was located and arrested about four hours later, charged with robbery and assault. He was grabbed by a sharp-eyed NYPD recruit who was in uniform and armed with the perp’s photograph, police sources said. …

The hug thug began showing off his love of embraces in 2013 when he began offering quick squeezes for a dollar in Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village, according to a New York Times profile of Himmelstein.

On an average day, he makes up to $30 an hour.

He sounds pretty rational to me.

NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill said Himmelstein “is no stranger” to the department. He’s been arrested 16 times since 2012.

Okay … but nobody can stop him for long from slugging young women on the streets of Manhattan?

He was busted for tossing a can of soda at a woman who refused to hug him in Washington Square Park in 2013. The can bruised her face. He was also accused of punching a woman in the face on the Coney Island boardwalk last year.

The New York Post today reveals Himmelstein has now confessed to punching another young woman late last month, but was allowed to remain on the streets, despite the victim’s complaint to the authorities, until he did it again yesterday. From the New York Post today:

‘Free hugs’ panhandler admits to previous punching attack

By Rebecca Rosenberg May 13, 2016 | 2:57pm

A “free hug” panhandler who punched a female tourist Thursday after she refused to tip him admitted to cops that he had socked another woman in a subway station last month after she declined an embrace, court papers show.

Jermaine Himmelstein, 24, was standing near the entrance of the 49th Street N/R station April 29 wearing a “free hug” sign when the woman rushed passed him and into the station.

“You will respect me when I knock you out,” barked Himmelstein as he struck her in the face causing “substantial pain and a bump to her head,” the complaint states.

“I offered a hug to the girl, she said no and walked away,” the “free hug” thug confessed to cops after they picked him up on the later May 12 assault.

“I observed the girl going down into the subway system, and I hid my cardboard sign behind a pole. I followed the girl into the subway system, sucker punched her, and then I jumped over the turnstile and ran away.”

He was arraigned Friday on both cases in Manhattan Criminal Court and is being held on $5,000 bail. He faces raps for assault, fraudulent accosting and harassment.

Or will he be released to do it again like the last 15 times?

The NY Daily News adds a crucial detail about his slugging the young woman in April:

Himmelstein’s victim reported the attack, but the Manhattan man wasn’t arrested for last month’s attack until he punched Sophie Violene Dauvois on Thursday.

This seems to me like a real scandal that ought to raise serious questions about what our society should do to keep violent pests from repeatedly attacking young women. And who in authority should be held accountable for not dealing with this guy’s extremely conspicuous reign of terror?

Update: Here’s a video shot in Times Square in October 2013, a half year after the NYT article about Himmelstein, starting immediately after a Bloomberg Era cop ripped up the sign of the Hug Thug (in grey), and then a social justice warrior (in black) interceded on his behalf:

Update: Putin’s Russia Today plays it as a sob story about cruel budget cuts:

Jermaine Himmelstein is well known in the Big Apple as the “Free Hugs Guy,” and because of the low level of financial support given to Americans struggling with mental health issues, he relies on tips in exchange for photographs to survive.

• Tags: Hug Thug 
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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