After selling out tickets for an upcoming concert in Brooklyn, John Hinckley Jr.’s gig has been nixed by the venue that was set to host him. The man, who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and was found not guilty by reason of insanity, will no longer take the stage at Market Hotel.
Market Hotel made the announcement through a lengthy statement posted to social media channels on Wednesday evening, citing that it is not worth risking “the safety of our vulnerable communities” by going forward with the event.
“After a lot of serious consideration, we are canceling the scheduled event at Market Hotel with John Hinckley,” the statement begins. “There was a time when a place could host a thing like this, maybe a little offensive, and the reaction would be ‘it’s just a guy playing a show, who does it hurt — it’s a free country.’ We aren’t living in that kind of free country anymore, for better or for worse.”
Market Hotel’s statement goes on to state that outrage and concern around the event were reacting to the “message it sends” to host Hinckley. The institution asserts that it maintains the belief that ex-convicts “can recover, and that we should want them to maintain hope that they can better themselves and earn a chance to fully rejoin society,” but that the reaction to the booking has been met too negatively by particular parties to consider the endeavor “worth a gamble.”
Interestingly, Market Hotel seems to assert an argument that Hinckley’s body of work does not fulfill a certain artistic pedigree in their eyes to justify the potential negative reaction of booking him to perform.
“If we were going to host an event for the principle, and potentially put others at risk in doing so, it shouldn’t be for some stunt booking — no offense to the artist. We might feel differently if we believed the music was important and transcended the infamy, but that’s just not the case here,” Market Hotel wrote.
The 67-year-old Hinkley has been living in Virginia under restrictions since 2016, with an unconditional release taking effect on Wednesday, after a judge found that he had met several conditions, including mental stability.
Mr. Hinckley has been planning to follow the release by mounting what he called a “redemption tour,” playing his original music at venues around the country. The once would-be assassin had turned to art in recent years, uploading videos of original songs and covers to his official YouTube channel.
“I watch the news like everybody else — we’re living in very, very scary times, to be honest,” Hinckley said to The New York Times, responding to the show’s cancellation. “I would have only gone on with the show if I was going to feel safe at the show and feel that the audience was going to be safe.”
Hinckley spent more than two decades in a psychiatric hospital after hatching a plan to kill President Reagan in 1981, firing six shots at the President as he left a hotel. The shots hit Reagan, White House press secretary James S. Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy J. McCarthy and police officer Thomas K. Delahanty. Brady died of his injuries in 2014.
Those who support Hinckley see his emergence into the public eye as an important statement on the verifiability of rehabilitation, for criminals and those who suffer from mental health issues.