Protester with Israeli flag rushes stage at Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt

Demonstrators wave flags from crowd at controversial act of former Pink Floyd frontman; Waters under investigation in Germany for incitement after donning Nazi garb onstage

Protesters wave an Israeli flag at a Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Protesters wave an Israeli flag at a Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt, Germany, May 28, 2023. (Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A protester rushed the stage at the Roger Waters concert in Frankfurt on Sunday, waving an Israeli flag when he managed to reach the upper deck while running from security. Groups of protesters dispersed in the crowd also waved large Israeli flags in what appeared to be a coordinated response to the former Pink Floyd frontman’s latest antisemitic controversy on his current tour.

The protesters also briefly sang “Am Yisrael Chai” (The people of Israel live) from the stands while clapping.

Earlier in the day, groups of protesters demonstrated against the concert, which Frankfurt authorities had initially tried to prevent from taking place. Waters successfully challenged the move in a local court.

The former frontman, who’s sparked a number of controversies with 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.

Police confirmed that an investigation was opened over suspicions that the context of the costume could constitute a glorification, justification, or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace. Wearing or display of 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,” police chief inspector Martin Halweg said.

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 on-screen projections drew ire and condemnation that Waters was relativizing the Holocaust.

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.

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

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 earlier this week as well.

In Frankfurt on Sunday night, Waters performed 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.

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)

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. The city’s mayor as well as the head of the local Jewish community were set to speak at the protest.

Protesters in Munich rallied against a concert by Waters earlier this month, after the city council said it had explored possibilities of banning the performance but concluded that it wasn’t legally possible to cancel a contract with the organizer.

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

JTA contributed to this report.

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