Artists in New York held an ‘Ides of June’ rally at the Cube in Astor Place yesterday to protect freedom of expression.
The protest follows the decision by Bank of America and Delta Airlines to withdraw funding from New York’s Public Theater over its current production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which depicts the assassination of a Trump-esque dictator.
The corporate sponsors pulled the plug on Sunday after Donald Trump Jr. questioned the Public Theater’s funding sources on Twitter and a news segment on Fox News.
The rally was organized by first-time activists and artists Jess Applebaum, Shira Milikowsky and Jesse Oxfeld, who saw the withdrawal of funding as an act of censorship.
“We’re here, independent of the Public Theater, to have conversations and show support for freedom of expression and being able to create art that isn’t held hostage to corporations. This play has been running for weeks and then a radical newspaper gets hold of it, doesn’t see it, doesn’t read it, and we need to have conversations about what’s happening,” said Applebaum, who lives in New Jersey.
Several artists spoke at the rally including America monologist and author Mike Daisey, whose current show at the Wooly Mammoth Theater in Washington, The Trump Card, is a send-up of the president.
“I’m a working artist and I wanted to show support to the Public Theater and arts institutions everywhere because there has been a creep of corporate censorship and the only way to tackle it is to show up,” Daisey said.
Organizer Jesse Oxfeld called the censorship of Shakespeare in the Park an “unprincipled boycott” characteristic of an authoritarian regime.
“What happened over the weekend is propaganda and demagoguery. On Sunday Fox & Friends ran an incendiary segment about a New York play that depicts the assassination of the president and people just went after the sponsors who promptly caved in,” Oxfeld told the crowd, which numbered over a hundred people.
Other speakers noted the irony of the censorship row, that those who would most benefit from the presence of art in their lives are too often the ones railing against it.