Pro-Israel stage protester says Roger Waters’ guards threatened to break his neck

Marcel L., who rushed stage with Israeli flag at Frankfurt show, alleges violence by security; singer says act was ‘unnerving,’ as German police probe him for antisemitism

A man rushes the stage with an Israel flag during a Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A man rushes the stage with an Israel flag during a Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A pro-Israel protester who rushed the stage with an Israeli flag during a Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt on Sunday told Israeli media Monday about the aftermath of his act, including that security guards had threatened to break his neck.

Footage posted online showed the young man managing to reach the upper deck while running from security, while groups of protesters dispersed in the crowd were also waving large Israeli flags and singing “Am Yisrael Chai” (The people of Israel live), in what appeared to be a coordinated response to the former Pink Floyd frontman’s latest antisemitic controversy on his current tour.

On Monday night, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that the man who got onto the stage was a pro-Israel Christian who heads the German-Israeli Society organization’s youth forum in Frankfurt, naming him only as Marcel L.

The network interviewed him about what happened after the on-stage protest against Waters.

“His security arrived quickly and violently took me down to the basement. They threatened to break my neck if I didn’t give them my mobile phone,” said Marcel.

“I also didn’t want to let go of the Israeli flag, so the guard told me he would break my arm if I didn’t give him the flag,” he added.

Marcel L., who rushed the stage with an Israel flag during a Roger Waters concert a day earlier in Frankfurt, Germany, speaks in an interview on May 29, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Waters himself reacted to the protest during the show, saying it had put him off and had been “quite unnerving” for him.

The former frontman, who has sparked a number of controversies with allegedly antisemitic actions and comments in recent years, is under a new criminal investigation for incitement by German police, after he appeared to dress as a Nazi during a concert in Berlin earlier this month. He also projected Anne Frank’s name at recent concerts in Berlin and Munich to draw comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany.

Images on social media of Waters wearing a long, black coat with red armbands on stage and waving a mock weapon at the Mercedes-Benz arena in Berlin last week sparked an uproar, leading police to probe Waters for incitement to hatred, and Germany’s official in charge of fighting antisemitism calling for Waters to be held accountable. Wearing or displaying symbols evoking the Nazi era are crimes in Germany.

“The context of the clothing worn is deemed capable of approving, glorifying or justifying the violent and arbitrary rule of the Nazi regime in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims and thereby disrupts public peace,” local police chief inspector Martin Halweg said.

Roger Waters on stage in Berlin, May 2023 (Twitter screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the copyright law)

The Frankfurt show — which local authorities had unsuccessfully tried to prevent from taking place — was held at Festhalle, where in November 1938 more than 3,000 Jews were rounded up by the Nazis, beaten, and later forced into concentration camps.

Jewish organizations together with politicians and an alliance of civil society groups gathered before the gig began for a memorial ceremony and a protest rally against Waters outside the venue, handing out flyers to concertgoers.

Protesters read out loud the names of 600 Jews who were rounded up at the Festhalle on November 9, 1939, the so-called Kristallnacht — the “Night of Broken Glass” — when Nazis terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria. The organizers also held a joint Jewish-Christian prayer for the victims of the Nazi terror in Frankfurt.

A woman holds a sign as she takes part in a protest against a Roger Waters concert later in the day in the Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

During the show, Waters admitted onstage that the uniform he commonly wears during concerts is meant to be a “sort of Nazi demagogue,” which he contends is aimed at criticizing such regimes.

In comments from the show posted on his Twitter page, Waters said he has worn the garb on many occasions over the decades but that he was skipping that part in Frankfurt in order to avoid “desecrating” the venue and to show he was aware of its history, confirming that he had also been aware of the earlier protest.

Waters has dismissed the criticism and the controversy as politically motivated.

Waters is a well-known pro-Palestinian activist who has been accused of holding anti-Jewish views. He has floated an inflatable pig emblazoned with the Star of David at his concerts.

At the Berlin concert this month, Waters also flashed the names of several deceased people on a large screen, including that of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp, and Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed on an assignment in the West Bank last year. The Israeli army has acknowledged that the bullet that killed her was “in very high likelihood” shot from an IDF gun, it has firmly rejected allegations that the veteran journalist was deliberately targeted.

Waters’ on-screen projections — which argued that Abu Akleh was killed for “being Palestinian” — drew ire and condemnation that Waters was relativizing the Holocaust.

Roger Waters performs at Barclays Arena in Hamburg, Germany, on Sunday, May 7, 2023, to kick off his “This Is Not A Drill” tour of Germany. (Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP)

The former frontman has played in several German cities in recent weeks as part of his “This Is Not A Drill” tour. But it has been hugely controversial with some city officials even trying, unsuccessfully, to ban him from performing.

The “Another Brick In The Wall” singer denies the antisemitism accusations, saying he protests against Israeli policies and not the Jewish people.

Felix Klein, Germany’s official in charge of fighting antisemitism, called on authorities to be “vigilant” following the incident in Berlin.

“Concert organizers should consider whether they want to offer conspiracy theorists a platform,” he said.

The antisemitism envoys of the United States and the European Union issued their own condemnations as well.

Last year, the Polish city of Krakow canceled gigs by Waters because of his sympathetic stance toward Russia in its war against Ukraine.

AP and JTA contributed to this report.

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