By Eliana Dockterman
December 10, 2014

SantaCon, an annual pub crawl in New York City that has earned a reputation for reckless debauchery, has retained famed civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel to represent them.

SantaCon has made headlines over the past several years as its Santa-suit clad participants have been caught publicly urinating, vomiting and engaging in sexual behavior (yes, really) on the street, scarring many children with the bad luck to pass by wasted versions of the man who supposedly brings them presents every year. Several neighborhoods in New York, tired of the inevitable mess and brawls, have banned the event this year.

Siegel, however, defended the Santas’ right to bar hop. “People need to be able to express themselves and do it within the parameters of the First Amendment,” he told Gothamist. Siegel recently represented nurse Kaci Hickox, who was forcibly quarantined in New Jersey after she returned from helping to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Though the crawl has historically taken place in the East Village in Manhattan, Community Board 3 (which oversees the East Village, Lower East Side and parts of Chinatown neighborhoods) has officially banned the revelers. When the group tried to relocate to Bushwick in Brooklyn, city council members encouraged bars to boycott the event, forcing the SantaCon to change locations again. SantaCon’s final route is still a mystery: it’s set to take place on Dec. 13, and the final route is usually announced the day before.

As locals make plans to spend the day uptown to avoid running into hundreds of publicly intoxicated, red-suited participants, SantaCon announced in a statement that it is making changes this year to try to work with the community:

Organizers are promoting the hashtag #DontScroogeSantaCon this year in hopes of curbing bad behavior.

SantaCon’s plans will likely be further complicated by a planned rally for Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others killed by police called “Day of Anger: Millions March NYC,” also taking place on Saturday. The protest will meet in Washington Square Park near the East Village.

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com.

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