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LA Supervisor confronts heckler at Museum of Tolerance

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 17, 2010 | 4:33 pm

It’s called the Museum of Tolerance, and I’ve never before seen it accused of anything anti-Semitic (except possibly by the Jewish neighbors who opposed its expansion). But Thursday night quite the scene unfolded during a speech by L.A. Opera director James Conlon, titled “Music, Memory and Morality: How and Why Wagner Matters.” It apparently almost lead to fisticuffs between LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and a protestor:

In his speech, Conlon discussed the composer’s well-known anti-Semitic personal beliefs and argued that audiences could appreciate Wagner’s music even if they despised his racism.

Near the end of Conlon’s speech, protester Peter Gimpel stood up from his seat in the back row of the auditorium and blasted the conductor with a rambling list of accusations. He claimed that the conductor and the festival are glorifying an anti-Semite and revising history.

He also singled out Barry Sanders, the leader of the festival, whom he compared to Adolf Hitler by calling him “Mein Führer.”

Gimpel refused repeated requests from the museum’s director, Liebe Geft, to sit down, and continued to harangue the conductor for several minutes. At one point, Yaroslavsky, who was sitting two rows away, stood up and shouted back at the protester.

“You’ve had your say,” Yaroslavsky said, adding that he would personally eject Gimpel from the auditorium if he didn’t stop speaking.

When Gimpel refused to acquiesce, Yaroslavsky angrily left his seat and approached the heckler.

Yaroslavsky’s seats for UCLA basketball games are a few rows away from mine. And all I can say after reading this story is that I hope he threatens to personally remove from Pauley Pavilion any USC fan who tries to sit in our section.

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