Protester on stage of controversial Central Park production shouts the blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands, in reference to congressman shot in Virginia
A rightwing protester has been charged with trespassing after interrupting a New York production of Julius Caesar during the assassination scene and shouting: This is violence against Donald Trump.
The protester, who later identified herself as Laura Loomer, interrupted the Shakespeare in the Park production on Friday night and shouted this is political violence against the right while audience members booed and told her to get off the stage.
The incident was filmed by Jack Posobiec, a rightwing provocateur best known for helping to spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. He stood up as Loomer was escorted off stage by security guards and yelled at the crowd: You are all Goebbels. You are all Nazis like Joseph Goebbels You are inciting terrorists. The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands.
Scalise, a top-ranking Republican, was wounded in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, had a history of domestic violence. He was also a Bernie Sanders supporter who had criticized Trump on social media.
Posobiec continued to film himself saying Goebbels would be proud as he was escorted from the theatre, posting the video on Twitter with the caption: Julius Caesar Gets SHUTDOWN.
Reports from the audience said the play resumed within a minute, with the stage manager directing the cast to pick up at liberty and freedom.
Loomer was arrested outside the theatre after she allegedly refused police requests to stop shouting and move along. She was charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct and bailed just over two hours later.
The protest was aimed at an artistic decision to set the play in a modern political setting, with Caesar looking decidedly like Donald Trump. As in every production of the play in the 418 years since it debuted, just as happened in 44BC, Caesar is assassinated.
In a statement issued after the play, director Oskar Eustis said: Free speech for all, but lets not stop the show.
The staff removed the protesters peacefully and the show resumed with the line Liberty! Freedom!, he told the New York Times. The audience rose to their feet to thank the actors, and we joyfully continued. Free speech for all, but lets not stop the show.
In a statement on twitter, the Public Theater said it expected the protest, which it said was part of a paid strategy driven by social media. It thanked theatres staff for allowing it to quickly resume the show.
The Shakespeare in the Park production, which includes some fairly broad visual jokes and quips linking Julius Caesar to Trump, became a political flashpoint last week. Fox News condemnation of the NYC play depicting the assassination of the president sparked so much outrage that two of the Shakespeare productions corporate sponsors, Bank of America and Delta, withdrew their financial support.
After the shooting in Virginia, Trumps son, Donald Trump Jr, drew an immediate link on Twitter between the staging of a play often read in secondary school and the violent attack.
On Monday, a Public Theater spokeswoman said: Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeares play, and our production, make the opposite point: those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.
Eustis addressed that criticism in remarks to the crowd before the show began, saying the role of theatre was to hold a mirror up to nature and occasionally reveal uncomfortable truths.
Anyone who watches this play tonight would know that neither Shakespeare nor the Public Theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems, and certainly not assassination, he said.
This play, on the contrary, warns about what happens when you try to preserve democracy by non-democratic means, and again, spoiler alert: it doesnt end up too good.
The free production has run since 23 May and will close on Sunday. Shakespeare in the Park, a decades-long New York tradition, gives out free tickets to those willing to wait in line for hours in the leafy shade outside of the outdoor venue. Those at the front of the line for tickets on Friday had arrived at Central Park at 4am, before the park officially opened.
Asked through Twitter direct message if he had waited in line with other audience members for tickets that morning, or if he had bought them, Posobiec replied: Scalper.