Yesterday afternoon, Jermaine Himmelstein — the man who walks around Washington Square Park with a “Free Hugs” sign — was arrested in the park around 1:45pm on charges of assault. According to the NYPD, the 21-year-old Himmelstein asked a woman if she would give him a hug and when she said no, he threw a can of soda at her which hit and bruised her face.
Stern junior Emanuel Hahn witnessed the incident and told NYU Local that Himmelstein was “to the left of the fountain … looking for people to hug. Two cops came up to him and took away his sign and proceeded to handcuff him.”
While Himmelstein’s offer of “Free Hugs” might seem well-intentioned, he often ends up bothering people, if not outright harassing them. Typically after given a hug, Himmelstein “then asks for donations so that he can support himself,” Hahn said. On an NYU Secrets post about the arrest, more students wrote of Himmelstein’s forceful nature. “He wouldn’t stop harassing me for more hugs,” wrote Ana Lovric. “He said he wanted an “adult hug.'”
The New York Post ran a short profile of Himmelstein last summer, when he was busking in Times Square and reportedly earning $17 to $30/hour. The NYPD tells us Himmelstein is awaiting trial. Until he’s released, you’ll have to settle for NYU’s other famous hugger.