Minneapolis’ Theater of Public Policy had to end a performance early for the first time in its seven-year run after a group of protesters repeatedly disrupted the show.
The hecklers were angered by a Monday morning decision to clear the way for construction of the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which received unanimous approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Two members of that commission agreed to appear at Tuesday night’s Theater of Public Policy show, but their conversation with host Tane Danger was cut short.
According to The Star Tribune, protesters in the crowd repeatedly chanted, “they ignore the law, they break the law,” while some yelled, “you are fired!”
“This place has a reputation for civil discourse. There is a whole audience of people here that wants to learn from this,” Danger pleaded with the protesters, who refused to leave or stay silent.
“Do you think it will help shouting us off the stage?” Danger continued, which one heckler responded to by shouting “yes!”
“I’ve never had to say this before, but we can’t go on with the show,” Danger later told the audience. “I will refund your tickets. This is not what you signed up for.”
The Theater of Public policy was co-founded by Danger and has built a reputation for hosting controversial policy discussions by blending them with improvisational comedy. After its Tuesday night performance was cut short, the group took to Facebook to note that it had to end its performance early for the first time in its seven-year history.
“We believe strongly in creating space for people to learn, discuss, and disagree, while at the same time appreciating the humanity of people on all sides [of] an issue. We believe we are all better off when we all know and understand different issues, how they impact people’s lives, and how to make change,” the group said on Facebook.
“It’s going to cause actual harm to real people, not hypothetical harm, but harm, hurt, to people in Minnesota, that greatly outweighs the benefit of the project, if it’s allowed to move forward with construction,” one protester said Monday.
But the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission believes it would be better to allow Enbridge to build a new line, rather than letting the current one to continue operating in poor condition. And despite Tuesday’s disruption, the Theater of Public Policy remains hopeful about its future.
“We continue to believe it is imperative that we find ways to talk about things, even (especially) very hard things, with people who think differently or have different beliefs,” they said. “We are continuing to learn and hopefully grow in that work.”
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