Man shouts 'Heil Hitler, Heil Trump' during a performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof'
This week the FBI announced that hate crimes in the United States have increased by 17%, with hate crimes against Jews accounting for 58% of religion-based crimes. Horrific news, but are you really surprised? Less than a month ago, a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The suspect, Robert Bowers, often made anti-Semitic comments on social media and reportedly shouted "All Jews must die" as he committed the massacre.
For some reason, hateful people are feeling emboldened, willing to commit heinous acts of violence, and shout their despicable rhetoric in public. On Wednesday night, yet another disturbing incident occurred at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore. During a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a man in the balcony began shouting 'Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!" The outburst came during intermission, provoking fears about another mass shooting. "People started running," audience member Rich Scherr told The Baltimore Sun. "I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, 'Here we go.'"
On Facebook, Scherr shared footage of the commotion in the theater, everyone's eyes fixated on the balcony. Audience member Samit Verma was sitting up there, and told The Sun that the man held his hand straight up in a Nazi salute. He went on to describe the chaotic scene, in which ushers rushed to confront the man, and patrons fled the theater. "The people around me appeared to be quite shaken by the incident,” Verma said in the email. "There were some people in tears." Heather O'Hare, another audience member, told CNN that someone started shouting back, "Go home, Nazi!"
The man's outburst was partially terrifying due to the choice of play. The Fiddler on the Roof is about a Jewish family that attempts to retain their cultural traditions, while facing persecution in Tsarist Russia. In the scene directly before intermission, a group of Russians disrupt a Jewish wedding, damaging the gifts and wounding one character. "It is a story inherently about Jews being made not to feel welcome, and here is this bozo who decided to express that he felt we should not be welcome here either," stated audience member Theodore Casser.
Security escorted the man out of the theater, prompting a round of applause from the audience. The show resumed 10 minutes later. The Baltimore Police arrived to the venue and issued a stop ticket to the man, which is basically a slap on the wrist, not carrying any fine, penalty or follow-up with authorities. In an email to The Sun, police spokesman Matt Jablow explained, "As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened."
A Baltimore police report has identified the man as Anthony M. Derlunas II, 58. The report states that he was "clearly intoxicated" and admitted to drinking heavily. His girlfriend, who accompanied him to the theater, said that he usually takes medication but had gone without it that evening. Derlunas told the police he yelled the final scene reminded him how much he dislikes the president. Yes, you read that right, the man was not a Trump supporter. Plot twist! But the story's still ugly.