By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.
Demonstrations outside a Broadway theater are rare, but nothing new. When Springsteen On Broadway began a return engagement in June 2021, as the first main stem show of the “covid19 era,” it drew protests for its audience requirements of masks and proof of vaccination. In 2013, Catholic organizations prayed in peaceful protest across the street from The Testament of Mary for what they considered to be a heretical play.
But last night, neo-Nazis from an organized group not only came to demonstrate outside a Broadway theatre, but they also harassed audience members lined up to see the first preview performance of Parade. According to Playbill.com
“On February 21, as patrons lined up for the first preview performance of the Broadway revival of Parade—a musical about the true story of the false conviction and murder of a Jewish man named Leo Frank in 1915—members of a far-right, Neo-Nazi movement protested outside of the Jacobs Theatre. The individuals carried signs with hateful rhetoric hand-written, shouting at theatre-goers and attempting to give out antisemitic flyers to those in line to see the show.”
The National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi hate group, is protesting outside of the Broadway revival of “Parade,” stating that Leo Frank, the subject of the musical, was a pedophile. pic.twitter.com/wbGMjRubZL
— Jake Wasserman (@jacobhwasserman) February 22, 2023
Again from Meg Masseron’s Playbill.com article,
“It was an ironic display of antisemitism considering that the Parade musical is an indictment against hatred. Parade, a musical written by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry, dramatizes the life and tragic death of Frank, who was a Jewish factory manager living in Georgia in the early 20th century. He was falsely convicted of murdering 13-year-old factory worker Mary Phagan. He was sentenced to life in prison. But Frank was then subsequently lynched by an angry white mob. After Frank’s death, it was revealed that Phagan was murdered by Jim Conley, another factory worker. Frank has since been exonerated.
The far-right white supremacist group, known as “The National Socialist movement,” protested the show on the basis of denouncing Frank’s innocence. Their flyers also described their opposition to the Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit civil rights law group that assists victims of antisemitic allegations. The League was founded over a century ago in response to Frank’s murder. ”
Read the full Playbill.com article “Neo-Nazis Protest Outside of Parade’s 1st Preview Performance on Broadway”
There are a couple of points worth noting that are very disturbing about neo-Nazis at last night’s performance. The most obvious is why did security allow them to get that close to the theater and to the patrons going inside?
Having been to a few productions that were protested, demonstrators are kept back away from the entrance of the theater, typically across the street. To be sure, these neo-Nazis did not give prior notice; but in the videos from last night, security does not seem to make any effort to move the abusive, anti-Semitic protesters back away from patrons. Security is literally their job, but I get it. Neo-Nazis are extreme, dangerous, and violent.
This is the second point worth noting.
We’re aware that anti-Semitic hate crimes in America have dramatically increased in the past few years, even in a very friendly city like New York. What doesn’t get enough attention is the rise of open and public neo-Nazi “actions” like last night. Most of the time they’re reported in the media and politicians denounce them; sometimes law enforcement intervenes; but more and more Republican leaders give them a tacet endorsement by saying nothing about it.
Related post: “Charlottesville: A White Terrorist Attack”
No wonder they felt empowered to come to the heart of the bluest city, to Broadway with its diverse, accepting, and loving community, where we share stories of humanity with audiences eight times a week, to spread their hate and fear. Again, neo-Nazis and others like them are extreme, dangerous, and violent – and they just made their Broadway debut.
Parade will be more than fine. If anything, the neo-Nazis did more last night for ticket sales than they could imagine. What’s more it solidified the company’s resolve.
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This isn’t “Springtime for Hitler.” It’s time to take these groups and our elected officials who enable them seriously, because they’re not trying to be funny. Regardless of how abhorrent their message, they’re guaranteed the same freedom of speech and assembly as everyone else; but they do not have the right to harass people anywhere nor should they feel emboldened to do so. They must be called out, denounced, and stopped whenever and wherever they parade hate in public infringing upon everyone’s rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” – Heather Heyer