Viewers were stunned when two men stormed the stage during the live broadcast of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” Season 23 premiere. Security swiftly tackled the protesters — later identified as Sam Sotoodeh and Barzeen Soroudi — and handed them off to the Los Angeles Police Department. Despite their arrest, the anti-Ryan Lochte demonstrators insist they were justified in their disruption.
Sotoodeh and Soroudi claim their protest was a direct response to an incident involving Lochte and three other members of the United States Olympic swimming team in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The men told ABC News that the six-time medalist “embarrassed Americans” by lying about a drunken night out that ended in a gas station incident, the exact details of which remain something of a mystery. Sotoodeh and Soroudi believe Lochte needed to be taught a lesson and their protest was intended to be just that.
“Our purpose is to get the message out that Lochte is a coward, a liar and under Brazilian law, a criminal,” Sotoodeh told ABC News after being released from jail (via Associated Press).
Although only two demonstrators were arrested, ABC News reported on Tuesday that several more were able to infiltrate the “Dancing With the Stars” audience. While Sotoodeh and Soroudi took to the stage for their 15 seconds of fame, four women are said to have been sitting in the crowd cheering anti-Lochte messages and wearing the same shirts as their cohorts. The two men were taken to a local police station where, according to CNN, they were charged with trespassing. It is not known how long they were in police custody.
“They were arrested on trespassing, this was a private person’s arrest as the security at the venue made the arrest,” the LAPD said in a statement to CNN.
The incident occurred during the live Season 23 premiere, but fans watching along at home saw none of it. Footage of security taking down the protesters hit the internet on Tuesday via “Good Morning America.” The tape shows one man on the ground with security on top of him while the other is tackled as he attempts to step in front of the camera. Host Tom Bergeron told “Good Morning America” hosts both men were screened before being allowed into the audience and showed up with their anti-Lochte shirts covered. He thanked security for acting quickly, keeping him, the judges and the “DWTS” cast safe during what could have been a dangerous incident.
“DWTS” returns Monday, Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC for another live episode. The couples will have one final chance to show their dancing chops before facing elimination the next day.