MANHATTAN (PIX11) — A group with neo-Nazi ties protested outside the Bernard Jacobs Theater on the first night of previews for the musical “Parade.”  

Members of the National Socialist Movement held signs and shouted hateful and antisemitic rhetoric. They targeted a show that is based on real events surrounding the lynching of a Jewish man.

“Parade” depicts the true story of Leo Frank, who was convicted of the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl in Georgia in 1913. Frank was wrongly accused. After his sentence was later commuted, Frank was lynched by an antisemitic mob. 

The protest outside “Parade” occurred Tuesday evening. Wednesday night, the NYPD had stepped up its uniform police presence. Theatergoers who spoke with PIX11 expressed their outrage. Cosima Wiltshire and Lindsay Weinstein were visiting from the United Kingdom. 

“I think it’s terrible they’re using this as a platform to promote such horrendous messages when they’ve been proven not to be true,” said Wiltshire.

“I’ve been to concentration camps and you say that didn’t happen that makes you feel very angry,” added Weinstein.

Also outraged, the star of the show. Ben Platt who plays the lead role of Frank, called out the demonstrators in a social media post.

“There were a few neo-Nazi protestors from really disgusting groups…bothering some of our patrons on the way in,” said Platt in a video message posted to Instagram. “It was definitely very ugly and scary but a wonderful reminder of why we are telling this particular story.”

The producers of the show also echoed Platt’s sentiment in a statement.

There has been a rise in antisemitic incidents nationwide as well as in the tri-state area. Etzion Neuer, senior deputy director of the Anti-Defamation League, said what happened outside the theater underscores the work of his organization.

“There are extremists now in 2023 that feel emboldened,” said Neuer. “They’re emboldened enough to stand up on a Manhattan street corner in one of the most diverse cities in the world and spread hate. It’s another wakeup call for people to see these antisemitic attitudes are out there.”

This is a revival of “Parade.” The musical first came to Broadway in 1998. There were no protests of the show then as there was this time around. Audience members said this is a reflection of the current climate in the United States.

“This is not OK and these people who are spreading hate don’t get to be a part of this anymore,” said theatergoer Haley Hampton.

Leo Frank was convicted largely based on false testimonies of people who took the stand. In the decades since, he has been exonerated and the state of Georgia posthumously pardoned him.