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Hippodrome incident was not free speech

As The Sun reported (“Drunk man shouts 'Heil Hitler, Heil Trump,' does Nazi salute during Baltimore performance of 'Fiddler on the Roof,'” Nov. 16), a man terrorized Hippodrome Theater patrons who feared that their lives were in danger when the miscreant yelled, “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” Of course, the audience was thinking about the mass murder of Jewish congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The threat provided by one Anthony M. Derlunas earned him no more than a “stop ticket,” “the least severe measure police can take when responding to a complaint,” the article states, which means that this dangerous man will receive no penalty whatsoever going forward. Asked why the police response was so limited, Baltimore Police Department spokesman Matt Jablow claimed, “As reprehensible as the man’s words were, they are considered protected speech/free speech because nobody was directly threatened.”

Contrary to Mr. Jablow’s implication, his benign interpretation is arbitrary and irresponsible. Mr. Derlunas should have been charged with disturbing the public peace and disorderly conduct pursuant to Section 10-201 of Maryland’s criminal code. This provision specifically includes a theater as a protected “public place.” The law prohibits acting in a “disorderly manner that disturbs the public peace,” including by “making an unreasonably loud noise.”

Weakly providing no punishment encourages repeat criminality and worse.

Richard E. Vatz and Carl R. Gold, Towson

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