Melissa Barrera Indya Moore among fiery Palestinian protesters chanting 39end

Melissa Barrera, Indya Moore among fiery Palestinian protesters chanting 'end genocide' during Sundance

Pro-Palestine protest at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

Pro-Palestine protest at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

Mia Galuppo

Traffic on Main Street in Park City came to a complete standstill on a busy Sunday afternoon during the Sundance Film Festival as several hundred Palestinian protesters – including actresses Melissa Barrera and Indya Moore – crowded the sidewalk chanting “Liberate Palestine” and “Stop this “Cryed genocide.”

Calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and protests related to the conflict have drawn participation from entertainment industry representatives since the conflict began.

Pose star Moore, who was in town for the festival premiere of “Ponyboi,” once grabbed the microphone and said, “I'm gay – God forgive me – shit.” I love everyone. I love people. I have Israeli friends. I have Jewish friends. I have Palestinian friends. Everyone sees what is happening. They all agree that there must be a ceasefire. Stop telling us to hate each other. Stop telling us they hate each other. They also know that the murdered Palestinian children are not currently responsible for the release of the hostages. That's just the truth, right? The children are innocent.”

As Barrera looked on, Moore continued, “If you care about life, if you care about dignity, if you care about freedom, then you care about the self-determination of everyone.” Although members of the LGBTQ community in Palestine often do faced with violence, persecution and death, Moore countered by saying, “This is about life.” That's why I'm here. I'm trans, right? It's about love.” She then said: “Free Palestine is about equality for all.”

With snow flurries and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees, the scene occurred just outside Park City's main drag, Main Street Pizza & Noodle, as the group of protesters clashed with festival-goers attempting to walk up and down the busy block for the performances, Panels, lunches and events. At one point, Chrissy Teigen was seen walking toward the protest demonstration with an entourage.

Barrera's appearance came after she was fired from the Scream franchise over her social media posts about the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Palestinian supporter said she has since experienced an “awakening” that has made her who she is “meant to be” in life. She is in Park City for the premiere of her new film “Your Monster.”

Utah state troopers and Park City police joined forces to monitor the scene, which grew tense at times as a handful of Israeli supporters confronted the Palestinian protesters and chanted “Take them home,” a reference to the hostages have been held since the Nova Music attack on the festival on October 7th. Other people could be heard booing the Palestinian protesters and trying to drown out their cries of “resistance is justified when people are occupied.”

“We are not protesting Sundance, we are protesting the complacency of the mainstream media,” exclaimed one of the leading demonstrators, who did not give a name. “All of you here, filmmakers and artists who use your art to tell stories, why are you silent?” There were calls for a “ceasefire now” and calls for President Joe Biden to end U.S. support for the conflict , with demonstrators chanting: “This November we will remember.” The signs read “Let Gaza Live” and “Abolish Zionism” and were decorated with watermelons, which have become a symbol of solidarity with Palestine.

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One of Sunday's events on Main Street was a brunch hosted by top Hollywood talent agency UTA. There, an anonymous industry insider said it was “incredibly inappropriate” for such a protest to take place during the festival. “There are a lot of Jewish people at this festival and many of them are not happy that these protests are happening around the world,” said the source, who is from New York, where she said she had spoken to many such protesters. In their opinion, many of them are misinformed. “They don’t have enough information to begin with and need to be better informed about the history and events.”

The source specifically called out the collective Palestinian chant “from the river to the sea,” a saying that they said calls for the “liberation of the Jewish people.” This is “particularly alarming given the rise in anti-Semitism around the world,” they continued.

During the protest, a man confronted a Palestinian protester about his use of the chant and asked the woman, who was one of the organizers of today's event, if she was aware of the connection. The protester refused to engage, but when reached out to the man to inquire about the passionate exchange, he opened up. Michael Sapers said he lives in Park City in the winter and came to Main Street because he heard about the protest. As a Jewish man, he felt inspired to present a counterargument.

“It amazes me that people don't really understand what's going on. I see that there is a group of gays here who support the Palestinians, but in Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza you cannot be openly gay. They will be beheaded,” Sapers said. “Israel is probably one of the most accepting places in the world for homosexuals. And yet here they are shouting: “From the river to the sea,” which means the destruction of the Jews, right? They want to drive the Jews to the sea to get rid of them.”

He continued that Israel has made “progress” in improving its relations with neighboring countries, “but on October 7th they are attacked and 1,200 people are killed, including women and babies.” Women were raped. It's terrible. What should Israel do? You have to defend yourself. I know that it is terrible and terrible that Palestinian women, children and innocent non-Hamas people have become victims in all of this,” Sapers continued. “But it's a shame. I wish I could enlighten people, but I asked questions first, but no one here wanted to answer questions. It's a shame. I'm sad about them because I don't think they come from an understanding. I don't think they do their homework. I don’t think they do the research.”

News of the planned protest spread Friday with a social media post promoting “Let Gaza Live” and inviting interested parties to march on Main Street for a demonstration beginning at 12:30 p.m. Sunday should. “Park City is home to the largest indie film festival in the United States; Tens of thousands travel around the globe to take part in the event. While we do not question Sundance as a whole, we want viewers and news reporters to know that Utah stands with Palestine,” the Instagram post reads.

The protest is unrelated to the Sundance Film Festival. The Palestine Solidarity Association of Utah noted that security at the protest would be provided by the Utah-based Armed Queers of Salt Lake City.

“We were also made aware of the demonstration and its commitment to maintaining a peaceful environment,” the Sundance Institute said in a statement at the time. “Although the organizers are not affiliated with the festival itself, we always care about the safety of our festival goers and consistently work with local law enforcement to maintain an environment that is welcoming, inspiring and safe for all of us.” “

As is often the case at Sundance, the social, political and cultural environment is reflected on the big screens and in the program of events, panels, protests and gatherings. A few days ago, an organization called Film Workers for Palestine published an open letter calling on “filmmakers and cinema workers to stand up for an end to the genocide and for a free Palestine,” its website says. Signatories include filmmakers and artists with projects at Sundance.

On Friday evening, the Bring Them Home hostage initiative cooperated with an evening solidarity event in Park City. According to organizer Jacob Shwirtz, the event lasted three hours and, according to his Instagram, was something he “will never forget as long as I live.” It served to shine a spotlight on the hostages who have been held since they were captured by the militant group Hamas while attending the Nova music festival on October 7.

“We succeeded in bringing the story of the hostage crisis to the forefront of the Sundance Film Festival,” he wrote. “There were tears and hugs and emotions and stories, and I truly believe it was an unforgettable, powerful experience.”

Actress Emmanuelle Chriqui spoke during the broadcast: “We are powerful and so much is being done. “Tonight you go away and reinforce all these messages so that we can bring them home now.”

Filmmaker Allison Norlian was in attendance and also shared her thoughts on Instagram. She wrote: “Instead of attending another screening, party or panel discussion, we gathered last night in solidarity with the hostages and their families. We listened to the parents and brother of two hostages still held in Gaza and a woman who escaped the Nova music festival. It was emotional and raw and it breaks my heart because all these people have been through everything and are still going through it.”

Another event that put Israel in the spotlight came courtesy of the Shabbat Lounge, which hosted a “Filmmakers Against Anti-Semitism” panel discussion on Sunday in collaboration with the Jewish Filmmaker Network.

Other protests that hit Park City during the Sundance Film Festival include the 2017 Women's March, which Chelsea Handler attended and organized, and a Red State protest before the premiere of the Kevin Smith film.