Sundance Shut Down: Pro-Palestinian Protest Closes Main Street; Melissa Barrera Among Demonstrators – Update

(Updated with more details) Chanting the controversial line of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” actress Melissa Barrera joined almost 100 pro-Palestinian protestors today at the Sundance Film Festival.

Marching halfway up Park City’s Main Street in the snow, the protesters were under heavy police surveillance and swarmed by media. With the huge media spotlight that Sundance attracts every year, capturing the attention of cameras and reporters was clearly part of the purpose of the demo Sunday.

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Slamming the Biden administration’s stance on Israel and strong allegiance with the Jewish State over the horrors of Hamas’ murderous attack on Israel on Oct. 7, protestors recycled an old anti-Vietnam War chant. With signs in the crowd calling President Biden a “butcher, demonstrators screamed: “Genocide Joe, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today?”

Spilling off the sidewalk into the street, the demonstration saw Park City police and other law enforcement move fast to shut down the road to traffic. “This could be a couple of hours, but we don’t want anyone hurt,” one officer on the scene said to Deadline.

Passersby at the festival were heard yelling “Bring them home” at the protestors in reference to hostages still held in Gaza by Hamas the past three months. As a handful of counter-protestors on the other side of the street waved Israeli flags, other more vocal SFF attendees could be overheard saying that terrorists “killed” members of their own families to the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

At Sundance for the genre film Your Monsters, Barrera has been outspoken in her support of Palestine. Barrera has also advocated for a ceasefire in the Gaza War that erupted soon after Hamas’ bloody and sexual assault filled attack on communities and military bases near the border with the Jewish state.

Barrera’s pro-Palestinian support on social saw her get fired by Spyglass Media from Scream VII back in November as the studio considered her remarks to be anti-semitic. She broke her silence days later on social exclaiming, “First and foremost I condemn Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I condemn hate and prejudice of any kind against any group of people,” Barrera said in a statement shared on Instagram Stories.

Today Barrera told Deadline she was “not doing any interviews, but you are welcome to take video of me.” Later, hanging back from the banners at the front of the marchers, Barrera recited with the crowd: “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians!”

A rep for the Islamic Scholarship Fund at the protest told Deadline that they were there because, “We fully support every single artist’s right to make art that they want to make and protest for free Palestine.” Another protester on Main Street said, “I support an end to all genocide that includes the genocide that’s happening right now.”

Pose star Indy Moore was also among the protesters, advocating for a free Palestine. Moore is attending Sundance this year to promote the premiere of Ponyboi.

Sundance organizers had no comment this afternoon on the protests. However, on January 19 they said: “While the organizers are non-affiliated with the Festival itself, the safety and security of our festival goers is always of concern to us, and we consistently work with local law enforcement to uphold an environment that is welcoming, inspiring, and secure for all our attendees.”

The Let Gaza Live protest has been in the works for weeks. Protestors boarded buses at Kimball Junction Station, seven miles from Main Street, before touching down at the main bus depot near Swede Alley.

While miles apart, the protest today occurred at almost the same time as a Sects, Lies & Videotape: Debunking Deadly Tropes About Jews and Israel in TV, Film and Media panel. That panel included activist and producer Noa Tishby. Calling the protestors “misinformed” and “useful idiots,” Tishby told Deadline earlier today that she hoped to make it over to Main Street to speak directly with the demonstrators.

The larger rally Sunday was preceded by a gathering of 25 Pro-Palestinian attendees earlier this morning. On January 20, a smaller group from Film workers for Palestine held a vigil just off. Main Street. That vigil yesterday saw organizers read off a list of names “whose stories ended in martyrdom,” as well as Angel of Gaza documentary director Ahmed Mansour speaking

Posting earlier this week on social, the Let Gaza Live event wrote “While bombs are dropping, the people cannot continue watching films on their screens while ignoring a genocide in Gaza.”

“While we do not take issue with Sundance as a whole, we aim to let spectators and news reporters know that Utah stands with Palestine,” the group Palestinian Solidarity UT added. The organizers are not affiliated with the overall Sundance Film Festival.

Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. More than 1400 were left dead from the brutal siege as detailed evidence shows wide-spread rapes and hundreds of people, including children, taken hostage. Within hours, Israel struck back by bombing potential Hamas strongholds. Within weeks, tens of thousands of IDF troops crossed the border into Gaza territory. As Hamas leadership have gone into hiding, Gaza has been reduced to rubble and most of the population upended. More than 24,000 Palestinians — including 16,000 women and children — have been killed since Israel’s offensive began, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry.

Politics mixing with cinemas is de rigueur at Sundance. There were two back-to-back women’s marches in 2017 and 2018 in response to the Donald Trump presidency; the latter Respect Rally attended then by Jane Fonda, Gloria Allred and Thor actress Tessa Thompson. The 2017 March on Main counted 8,000 strong, while the 2018 rally drew 400 people in the middle of a fierce snowstorm at the time.

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