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Man Protesting Violinist Arrested During Sanders Concert Sunday

By Dev A. Patel, Crimson Staff Writer

A man was arrested for disorderly conduct on Sunday evening after jumping on stage during a concert featuring violinist Vladimir T. Spivakov to deliver a speech protesting the musician’s support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

Roman J. Torgovitsky, an alumnus of both the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public Health, was arrested at 8:55 p.m. on the stage of Sanders Theatre, according to the Harvard University Police Department.

“While on detail monitoring a concern, an officer observed an individual run onto the stage and get extremely close to the performer in a confrontational manner,” the report reads. “The performance was disrupted by this individual on stage. The officer immediately placed the individual under arrest.”

Torgovitsky, who said in an interview Tuesday that he had dreamed of attending one of Spivakov’s concerts since childhood, added that he leapt onto the stage in order to both praise the musician “for the beautiful things that he has done” and engage in a dialogue concerning Spivakov’s support for Putin.

Spivakov was among several hundred cultural figures who signed a controversial letter supporting Putin’s stances on Ukraine and Crimea. The Russian president has been accused of leading an illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula through a fraudulent referendum.

“In the days when the fate of Crimea and our countrymen is being decided, Russia's cultural figures cannot remain indifferent, cold-hearted observers,” reads an English translation of the letter. “We want the commonality of our peoples and our cultures to have a strong future. This is why we firmly declare our support of the position of the President of the Russian Federation in regards to Ukraine and Crimea.”

The incident occurred as audience members applauded between songs. Torgovitsky said he stepped onto the stage, presented Spivakov with a Harvard hat which he had bought as a gift, and then began discussing the violinist’s support for Putin.

According to Torgovitsky, after he mentioned that letter Spivakov had signed, the crowd in Sanders Theatre began booing him, and video footage of the incident shows Spivakov approaching him aggressively.

Torgovitsky said Tuesday that he only tried to confront Spivakov on stage because other avenues of communication with the violinist seemed to be closed.

Neither Spivakov nor the tour’s managers could be reached for comment. A University spokesperson also declined to comment on the incident beyond pointing to the police report.

“He was ready to fight,” Torgovitsky said. “A couple of musicians came up and held his hands back.”

The video shows that a HUPD officer then crossed to the center of Sanders and picked up Torgovitsky, carrying him offstage while members of the crowd clapped and whistled.

According to Torgovitsky, while he stood handcuffed outside of Memorial Hall, exiting audience members made threats to him.

Torgovitsky was arrested and charged both at the HUPD police station and the Cambridge Police Department station for disorderly conduct. Additionally, he said he was banned by Harvard police from stepping foot on the University’s property.

During a court appearance at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, a judge dismissed Torgovitsky’s case.

Torgovitsky’s actions came as a crowd of at least 40 people protested the concert on the sidewalks outside of Memorial Hall on Sunday. Torgovitsky said he was not involved with the protestors outside.

Spivakov’s performance on Sunday was one stop in a larger tour honoring the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra’s 35th anniversary.

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

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