The same “Evil Elmo” who became known for anti-Semitic rants in New York’s Central Park and spent time in jail for trying to extort the Girl Scouts, has taken his act to the West Coast, where he is now reportedly protesting near Israeli businesses in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf district.
Dan Sandler, a panhandler who dresses up as the popular Sesame Street character, had previously said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that he just wanted people to leave him alone and let him do his “Elmo stuff,” but reports from locals and police indicate that he has not given up his anti-Semitic tirades.
“As the car pulled out of the station, he started in a loud voice, getting everybody’s attention, saying that he’s boycotting Israeli businesses on Fisherman’s Wharf,” Randy Meyers, 57, who said he rode in the same metro car as Sandler, told the Chronicle.
“He started talking about Fisherman’s Wharf as Jew Town, and the Jews this and the Jews that, in a derogatory, racist fashion,” Meyers added. “I was getting upset. There were kids in the cars, young girls listening.”
However, Sandler clarified that his comments were not anti-Semitic, but anti-Zionist, and he is simply “a Jewish man critical of Israel.”
“I was just saying that people should boycott Israeli and Zionist businesses on the Wharf and Pier 39 because stores connected to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf are encouraging harassment against me,” he said. “Many of these stores are Israeli-owned.”
“I believe that apartheid in Palestine is wrong and that all businesses that are connected to Israel should be disclosed to the public and boycotted,” he added. “Certain Zionist interests are causing problems for me with the city and directly on the Wharf. I counter it with negative information on Israel.”
Regrettably for local residents, merchants and police alike, there seems to be very little recourse to prevent Sandler’s behavior.
“He’s just a problem,” said head of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefits District Troy Campbell, who also recounted an incident where Sandler got into a confrontation with an Israeli business owner before launching into one of his anti-Zionist tirades.
“There’s nothing that says it’s illegal to be crazy, unless he’s posing a danger to people or threatening people with great bodily injury or death,” police spokesman Albie Esparza said. “When he’s on his rants, the only thing we can do is make contact with him to see if any crimes have been committed.”
Sandler shot to fame on the Internet in June last year as “Bad Elmo” after he was caught on film hurling obscene, anti-Semitic epithets at tourists while dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo in New York’s Central Park. Sandler earned money from tips by posing for photographs with tourists, including children, but was arrested for disorderly conduct because of his offensive behavior.
He was sentenced to a year in jail in October 2013 for trying to extort $2 million from the Girl Scouts, where he worked briefly on a computer project.
According to The New York Times, Sandler has a shady past involving a website he ran from Cambodia, called “Welcome to the Rape Camp,” that featured videos claiming to be of non-consensual sex. He was deported by local authorities in 1999. He later told the Chronicle that he started the site in order to help the women.