A man who yelled “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump,” during a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” this week in Baltimore reportedly made the comments because of his hatred of President Donald Trump.
The New York Times reported that Anthony M. Derlunas II, 58, made the outburst from the balcony section at the Hippodrome Theater on Wednesday night following the end of the first act.
At that point in the popular play — which debuted on Broadway in 1964 — a Jewish wedding in the lead character Tevye’s Russian village was interrupted by a pogrom.
Historically, pogroms were characterized by acts of violence against Jews ranging from destruction of property to outright massacres.
According to the Baltimore police report, Derlunas had been “drinking heavily throughout the night.”
“He told officers he yelled the slogans because the final scene before intermission reminded him of his hatred for President Trump,” The Times reported.
“According to the officer, Mr. Derlunas went on to say that the anger directed at him after his disruption was an indication of a high number of Mr. Trump’s supporters in the theater.”
Baltimore Sun sports writer Richard Scherr, 49, happened to be among the audience in the theater, seated in the orchestra section, when Derlunas made his outburst.
He told The Times the man’s actions stirred fears of a shooting like the Pittsburgh synagogue last month, which left 11 dead, was about to happen.
“People started running,” Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’”
Samit Verma, who was seated in the balcony section, saw Derlunas holding his hand straight up in a Nazi-style salute.
“The people around me appeared to be quite shaken by the incident,” Verma said in the email to The Baltimore Sun. “There were some people in tears.”
Scherr posted video on Facebook of the immediate aftermath of Derlunas’ screams.
Security personnel removed Derlunas from the theater and police responded to the scene.
The Sun reported that police issued the man a stop order, which is the least severe measure officers could have taken in responding to a complaint.
“Stop tickets do not carry any fines or other penalties and do not require follow-up from the recipient,” according to the Sun.
“As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened,” police spokesman Matt Jablow said in an email to the paper.
Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said more could have been done, arguing police could have charged Derlunas with disorderly conduct.
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said the incident was concerning.
“We’re all very sensitive and concerned in the wake of the recent shootings,” Libit said. “Shouting that seems to be the equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a theater, or shouting ‘bomb.’”
The Hippodrome management has barred Derlunas from the theater.
We do not tolerate behavior like we saw last night during intermission at “Fiddler.” Security handled the situation swiftly. Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life and we will continue that tradition.
— Hippodrome Theatre (@HippodromeBway) November 15, 2018
“We do not tolerate behavior like we saw last night during intermission at ‘Fiddler,’” a statement from the Hippodrome read. “Security handled the situation swiftly. Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life and we will continue that tradition.”
The Baltimore Police plan to have uniformed officers at the theater for the remainder of Fiddler on the Roof’s run in the city, which ends Sunday.
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