A New York production of Julius Caesar was came to an abrupt halt during the assassination scene of the emperor by a right wing protester who cried out:“This is violence against Donald Trump,” according the The Guardian.
The protester identified 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 right wing 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 injured 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 criticised 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 restarted 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 has been 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 let’s 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 let’s 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 the theatre’s 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 flash point last week. Fox News’ condemnation of the “NYC play” depicting the assassination of the president sparked so much outrage that two of the Shakespeare production’s corporate sponsors, Bank of America and Delta, withdrew their financial support.
After the shooting in Virginia, Trump’s 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 Theatre spokeswoman said: “Our production of Julius Caesar in no way advocates violence towards anyone. Shakespeare’s 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.
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