'Stop the normalization of political violence against the right,' one protester shouted.
Friday night’s Shakespeare in the Park performance of a Trump-inspired take on Julius Caesar was halted when a protester stormed the stage at New York’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park, while another shouted from the audience.
“Stop the normalization of political violence against the right. This is unacceptable,” 24-year-old Laura Loomer yelled as she took the stage during the show’s assassination scene. An announcer came over the intercom to pause the production and direct security to escort her off stage. “Shame! Shame on all of you,” she said as the audience booed her and guards led her out of the space.
Jack Posobiec, the other protester, posted his own video of the incident to his Twitter page. “You are all Nazis,” he began shouting. “You are inciting terrorists.” Posobiec also referenced this week’s mass-shooting at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, which left five people injured, including the House Majority Whip. “The blood of Steve Scalise is on your hands,” Posobiec claimed.
A rep for the NYPD confirmed to EW that Loomer was taken into custody at 9:45 p.m. ET and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. After her release, she tweeted, “I’m out of jail, but I’m not apologetic.”
The Public Theater, which put on the production, released a statement on the incident over Twitter: “Earlier this evening, a pair of paid protesters briefly disrupted our performance of JULIUS CAESAR, as anticipated. While we are champions of the first amendment, this interruption, unfortunately, was part of a paid strategy driven by social media. Thank you to our staff and security who worked to peacefully remove them from the theater so we could continue with our evening of Free Shakespeare in the Park.”
The production’s director, Oskar Eustis, also released a statement. “We stopped the show for less than a minute and our stage manager handled it beautifully,” he said, in part, via The Daily Beast. “The staff removed the protesters peacefully, and the show resumed with the line ‘Liberty! Freedom!’ 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.”
Julius Caesar has been the subject of controversy among conservatives, given the resemblance of Gregg Henry’s Caesar to President Donald Trump. In the Shakespearian tragedy, Caesar is assassinated by members of the Roman Senate. So, here, it’s the Trump-like version that meets the same fate. (The character is, throughout, only referred to as Julius Caesar.)
In the wake of the uproar, Bank of America and Delta Air Lines pulled sponsorship support from The Public Theater. “Their artistic and creative direction crossed the line on the standards of good taste,” a statement from Delta read.
Eustis took the stage before an earlier showing this month to clarify, “Neither Shakespeare nor The Public Theater could possibly advocate violence as a solution to political problems — and certainly not assassinations. This play, on the contrary, warns about what happens when you try to preserve democracy by nondemocratic means, and again, spoiler alert, it doesn’t end up too good.”
Following the small outburst by Loomer and Posobiec, numerous people criticized the protest via social media and mocked the outrage directed at Shakespeare’s centuries-old production.
Loomer and Posobiec did receive support from numerous conservatives online, however, including controversial InfoWars host Alex Jones.