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1,000 Gaza protesters rally in Hollywood ahead of Oscars, blocking traffic

Los Angeles, CA - March 10: Protester demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine in Oscar Rally and March in Hollywood on Sunday, March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters gather in Hollywood outside Sunday's Oscar ceremony to demand an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-amas war. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

About a thousand protesters converged on Hollywood on Sunday ahead of the Academy Awards ceremony to call for an immediate cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Their presence frustrated Oscars organizers and traffic control. Shortly before the ceremony was set to begin at 4 p.m., dozens of black vans carrying attendees stood at a standstill on Highland Avenue.

“Go, go, go!” one organizer yelled as he frantically waved at cars to move through the intersection at Sunset Boulevard and Highland near the Dolby Theatre, where the ceremony was set to start. Some Oscar-goers ditched their cars and walked toward the venue. By the time the ceremony began, police had cleared access routes.

Three hours earlier, demonstrators began gathering by the hundreds at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Ivar Avenue, about a mile east of the theater on Hollywood Boulevard.

Two men holding flags stand face to face.
An Israel supporter stands on the sidewalk as a protester shares views Sunday in Hollywood. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The demonstrators then spilled out to Sunset Boulevard, waving Palestinian flags and occupying the eastbound side of the street.

“Let’s shut it down!” protesters chanted as they swarmed Sunset. The crowd began moving westward on the boulevard, led by a white van with half a dozen people on top chanting into a microphone and megaphone.

About 40 police officers in riot gear stood vigilant at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Las Palmas Avenue, one block west of the approaching crowd.

“Free free Palestine!” the crowd chanted to a drumbeat — waving posters showing a movie slate painted in black, white, green and red, the colors of the Palestinian flag — with a message addressed to the Oscar audience: “While you’re watching, bombs are dropping."

Demonstrators also gathered earlier around the Hollywood Boulevard exit off the 101 Freeway and at the intersection of Sunset and Vine. Still others rallied on La Brea and Franklin avenues, near the Dolby Theatre, waving signs saying "Cease-fire now."

Read more: Those red buttons people are wearing on red carpets are a call for a cease-fire in Gaza

Security was tight in and around the theater. Los Angeles Police Department officers had bolstered patrols in the area in anticipation of protests, and ticket-holders for the ceremony and after-party events were required to pass through three checkpoints and a number of steel barriers before approaching the red carpet.

Miguel Camnitzer, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace of Los Angeles, said he recently joined the pro-Palestinian cause. The grandson of Jews who fled Germany during the Holocaust, the 44-year-old said he could not stand by while Palestinians are killed.

“I just can’t sit home today watching an awards show when a genocide is going on in the name of my people and with a previous genocide having happened to my people," he said. "I was raised believing it’s a collective responsibility from preventing that from anyone else."

For Sarah Jacobus, a mentor for young writers, protesting the Israel-Hamas war is more about getting food, water and other necessities to her mentees, some of whom are in Rafah in southern Gaza.

“They’re hanging on for dear life,” Jacobus, 72, said. “Two are in Rafah, one in a tent with his family and another in a room with about 50 people." She said one of her mentees needs diapers for his 2-month-old, but “what they need more than anything is freedom.”

Joining the demonstration on Sunset, several members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television Radio Artists showed their support for Palestinians and a cease-fire, holding a large SAG-AFTRA poster at the front of the crowd.

One of the protesters was a 35-year-old actress whose aunt and uncle are sheltering in a church in Gaza, she said. She requested anonymity for fear of retaliation against her family in Gaza and herself in the entertainment industry.

“Hollywood is complicit," she said, as she marched west toward the Dolby Theatre with the crowd. “There is this racist ideology running rampant inside [SAG], and there is no punishment for it.”

She said Palestinian Americans who voiced support for Gaza had been unfairly retaliated against in the entertainment industry, citing the case of a friend, a fellow actor who was dropped by their manager after posting pro-Palestinian messages on social media.

“We are feeling the effects of speaking up against genocide and for humanity,” she said. She urged the union to make a statement in support of a cease-fire.

Rallies and marches around the world in recent months have called for an end to the war.

Israel launched its airstrikes and a ground invasion of Gaza after Hamas militants attacked on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages. The death toll in Gaza has since passed 30,000, with most of the casualties women and children, according to the World Health Organization.

International mediators had been working unsuccessfully for weeks to broker a pact to pause the fighting before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Sunday. Officials were hoping a deal would allow aid to reach hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza who are under threat of famine.

Officials have been warning for months that Israel’s siege and military attacks were pushing the Palestinian territory into famine. At least 20 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration at the north’s Kamal Adwan and Shifa hospitals, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory.

Recent airdrops of aid by the U.S. and other countries provide far fewer supplies than truck deliveries, which have become rare and sometimes dangerous. UNRWA, the largest U.N. agency in Gaza, says Israeli authorities haven’t allowed it to deliver supplies to the north since Jan. 23. The World Food Organization, which paused deliveries because of safety concerns, said the military last week forced its first convoy to the north in two weeks to turn back.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.