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CBS2 Exclusive: Naked Man Runs Around Times Square For Hours; Police Stand By

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A man was seen running around buck naked on Broadway in Times Square for hours Thursday.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported Thursday, police never attempted to arrest him.

"Liberation -- this is America!" said the naked man running around Times Square with nothing but a coat of paint.

The long-haired, bearded man, who was brandishing a rubber chicken as he ran around and jumped into the air, may well not represent America or even New York City. But on a hot Thursday afternoon, he commanded the attention of the Crossroads of the World for hours.

"Take off all your clothes – let's do it now!" the man said exuberantly.

Tourists and natives and children got a naked performance, whether they like it or not, as police kept their distance.

"If it's art, it's legal," the man said.

The nude man, who may well not be on solid legal footing, identifies himself as Matthew Silver of Brooklyn, CBS2's Langford reported. Famed civil rights attorney Norman Siegal said full nudity in Times Square is unlikely to win a court case about protected artistic expression.

"You're protected to go topless, not bottomless," Siegal said.

But a city source said the naked man might indeed be within the law.

"If you are walking around naked, you are subject to enforcement, but if you are painted, that falls under the guise of entertainment, artistic expression and First Amendment rights," the source told CBS2.

Among passersby, opinions were split on the naked man Thursday.

"They can express themselves as they wish, but that's a little bit much, I think, even for Times Square," said Joe DiBella of Westfield, New Jersey.

After several hours, the man put his clothes back on and went on his merry way, apparently facing no penalties.

The man's partner and painter, Andy Golub, said the mad mirth is all about being free and not about making money.

"This is really about people that are artists and performance artists that are really dedicated to freedom and to spirituality," Golub said.

But the profit motive as practiced by topless painted women in Times Square recently has taken a new turn. On Wednesday night, there were two incidents that ended in arrests involving the topless, painted women known as "desnudas."

Around 9 p.m. Wednesday, police said undercover officers started talking with a topless painted woman, identified as 20-year-old Destiny Romero, near West 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue.

She introduced the officers to 22-year-old Jason Perez, who offered to sell them drugs, police said. Romero and Perez met up with the officers a short time later and sold them cocaine and five Molly pills, police said.

Romero is also accused of agreeing to have sex with one of the officers in exchange for cash, police said.

They were both arrested and face prostitution and drug possession charges, police said.

About 30 minutes later, a South Carolina man got into an altercation with two topless painted women after accusing one of them of taking his wallet, sources told CBS2.

The man noticed his wallet missing from his back pocket when he went to tip one of the women after taking a picture with her outside the Sephora store on Broadway and West 44th Street, sources said.

He accused the 20-year-old woman of taking it, sources said.

She denied the accusation and tried to walk away, but the man stopped her, grabbed her hair and threw her to the ground, sources said.

The man hit a second topless painted woman in the side of the head when she came over to help the other woman, sources said.

A nearby officer saw the altercation and grabbed all three. It was determined the "desnuda" didn't take the wallet because she was only wearing a thong and had nowhere to put it, sources said.

The man was arrested and charged with two counts of third-degree assault, sources said. He is awaiting arraignment.

The wallet was not found, sources said.

The NYPD has established a new task force of 100 officers to patrol Times Square, following numerous complaints about the topless painted women and aggressive costumed characters seeking tips for photos.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has also formed a multiagency task force that will consider several options, including tearing up the pedestrian plaza, to address the situation. The task force, co-chaired by Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, will report back to the mayor with recommendations Oct. 1.

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