On Wednesday night in Baltimore during the intermission of a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a man stood up in the balcony, gave a Nazi salute and yelled “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump,” prompting members of the audience to run away, fearing an attack.
Rich Scherr, a contributing sportswriter for The Baltimore Sun who was in the audience at the Hippodrome, said that after the man yelled out, “People started running. I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’” Samit Verma, who was in the balcony, said ushers immediately ran to the man while audience members quickly exited the theater and fled to the hall. He added, “The people around me appeared to be quite shaken by the incident. There were some people in tears.” Nina Pachino, who also was in the audience, said, “We refused to let the actions of one man stop us from living. But, the experience was tainted, at least for me. I could not stop my body from shaking and I kept looking around me, nervous something else was going to happen.”
After police arrived and the man who was shouting was escorted out, he was given a stop ticket by the police. That ticket does not carry a fine or other penalty. Police spokesman Matt Jablow noted, “As reprehensible as those words are, they are considered protected free speech because nobody was directly threatened.”
Just prior to the intermission, at the end of Act 1 of Fiddler, a Russian policeman warns the protagonist, Tevye and the other villagers in the town of Anatevka that a pogrom targeting the Jews is imminent.
Hippodrome officials issued this statement about the incident:
The France-Merrick Performing Arts Center takes the security and safety of its subscribers and patrons seriously. We employ a full team of professional security personnel, who are always on premise during live events to implement bag checks, provide screening and metal detection, and to monitor cameras throughout the venue. We apologize to those patrons who were affected by this unfortunate incident. Our venue has a proud tradition of providing shared experiences to people from all walks of life, right in the heart of this wonderfully diverse city, and we intend to continue that tradition in the spirit of bringing people together, not dividing them.”
Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, told the Baltimore Sun:
Things like that anywhere, much less crowded theaters, is a really potentially dangerous thing, you know. We’re all very sensitive and concerned in the wake of the recent shootings. Shouting that seems to be the equivalent of shouting ‘fire’ in a theater, or shouting “bomb.” I’m certainly grateful that it wasn’t the start of some broader, more violent incident. Whatever he was intending to say was hateful and hurtful and potentially very dangerous... it sounds like some of the people were kind of moving quickly to get out of the way.”
Jablow added that uniformed police will guard the Hippodrome through Sunday, when the last performance of “Fiddler” is scheduled.