As an accomplice videotaped from the audience, a lone protester charged the stage of the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park Friday night just after a Donald Trump lookalike portraying Julius Caesar had been assassinated. Shouting, “Stop the normalization of political violence against the right,” and, “This is violence against Donald Trump,” Laura Loomer was booed and shouted down by audience members, who promptly tweeted and Instagrammed the event as she was removed from the theater by security guards and arrested.
The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of the Shakespeare tragedy, in which the title character and his wife are portrayed by actors looking and sounding like POTUS and FLOTUS, has drawn protests from the right and resulted in defunding by corporate sponsors and distancing from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Loomer describes herself as a “right-wing investigative journalist and activist” and was accompanied at the show by Jack Posobiec, who identified himself as Loomer’s collaborator and who began shouting, “You are all Nazis, like Goebbels.”
The play paused, the actors still on stage, as security officers removed Loomer and Posobiec from the theater. Outside the Delacorte, Loomer continued shouting, according to reports, “Because of liberal violence like this, a congressman this week was shot in Virginia.” She was arrested and charged with criminal trespass and disorderly conduct, before being released.
The show quickly resumed as a stage manager announced, over the public address system, “Pick up at ‘liberty and freedom,’” prompting cheers and jollity from the audience, according to eyewitness accounts.
“Two protesters disrupted our show tonight; we stopped the show for less than a minute and our stage manager handled it beautifully,” Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public and the director of the production, said in a statement. “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.”
Conspiracy theorist and Megyn Kelly profile subject Alex Jones tweeted:
But conservative columnist and editor John Podhoretz tweeted:
Echoing Shakespeare scholars, Eustis has argued vigorously that neither the play nor the production advocates violence and that such interpretations ignore Shakespeare’s anti-violence message. That’s an interpretation rendered at least partially moot, however, by a misguided production that trades on anti-Trump sentiment, muddying the argument (as did versions in which Julius Caesar was played by a Barack Obama lookalike, all in a centuries-long history of the play’s appropriation by ideologues of all political persuasions).
On a lighter note, one audience member tweeted that during the brief interruption, even the very dead Caesar raised his bloody head to see what all the fuss was about.