Anthony Derlunas, 58, a drunken idiot attending a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Baltimore, suddenly started shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump!” He told police that his display was motivated by his hatred of the President.
Is it fair to call this “Trump Derangement”? I think so. I think that’s fair.
He told an officer he “had been drinking heavily throughout the night” before his performance at the Hippodrome Theatre, which understandably unsettled the audience, many of whom apparently thought that another anti-Jewish massacre was underway like the one in the Pittsburgh synagogue last month that killed 11 people. Some people started running, other wept. According to the police report, Derlunas explained that the final scene of the musical before intermission, depicting a Jewish wedding celebration disrupted by a Russian pogrom, reminded him of his hatred for the President—I know I’m always reminded of Donald Trump when I see “Fiddler on the Roof”—prompting his outburst. Derlunas was surprised, he said, when people around him became angry. You can certainly understand his confusion: all he was doing is shouting “Heil!” during a musical about Jewish history and culture. Somepeople get offended so easily.
Baltimore Police escorted Derlunas out a few minutes later, a police spokeswoman said, and the show continued.
He wasn’t charged with anything, though the theater has banned him for life. “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.
That’s ridiculous. Nobody has a right to disrupt a theatrical performance, and those words, especially in the context of the recent Pittsburgh shooting in a synagogue, could have sparked a panic and a riot. That’s literally the meaning of Justice Holmes’ “shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater” opinion. The First Amendment doesn’t permit all forms of speech in all settings. Ironically, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, Dana Vickers Shelley, opined that this particular speech warranted more than a “now don’t do it again, you naughty boy” warning, which is all the drunken fool got.
“More should have been done,” Shelley said. While the speech’s content is protected under the First Amendment, she noted, he could have at least been charged with disorderly conduct for the act of disrupting the show. Now uniformed officers will be stationed at the Hippodrome for the remaining “Fiddler” performances. All that expense, all that anxiety, the threat of a panic at the performance, and Anthony Derlunas gets to go home and continue to be angry, drunk and stupid. The police did a background check and have determined that he isn’t a threat to public safety, so they aren’t monitoring him further.
Is this a great country, or what?