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One of the protesters disrupting the 2024 Spirit Awards was a previous winner

A man speaks on a loudspeaker in protest.
Filmmaker Merawi Gerima, center, was among the protesters at Sunday’s 2024 Spirit Awards. Gerima previously won a Spirit Award in 2021 for his film “Residue.”
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
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One of the protesters at Sunday’s Spirit Awards ceremony was filmmaker Merawi Gerima, who won the Spirit Awards’ John Cassavetes Award for a film made for under $1 million in 2021 for his feature “Residue.” A video posted to the Instagram page of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network shows the beginning of the protest, with Gerima speaking into a loudspeaker to announce they are there on behalf of the USPCN and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression.

“We say it is far better to stand with the oppressed people around the world than with the oppressors here in Hollywood,” Gerima says in the video, before specifically calling out multiple times actor Jeffrey Wright, star of the film “American Fiction,” which won two prizes on Sunday, including lead performance for Wright.

“It’s not enough to have a film about racism, Mr. Jeffrey Wright,” said Gerima. “It’s not enough to have a film about oppression in the United States, Jeffrey Wright. It is far more important to stand against oppression and racism as it exists in the world today in solidarity with the Black and brown people of the planet, particularly Palestinians.”

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Even as pro-Palestinian protesters could be heard outside, the show continued, with awards going to “American Fiction,” “The Holdovers” and “Anatomy of a Fall.”

Feb. 25, 2024

About 40 minutes into the daytime ceremony, which was held in a tent near the beach in Santa Monica, loud sounds could be heard by attending guests. A small group of protesters had assembled on a public sidewalk across from the tent, holding up a loudspeaker that played a prerecorded looped chant of “Free, free Palestine,” “Long live Palestine” and “Cease-fire now” that could be heard throughout the rest of the show.

A caption on another Instagram video shows officials with headsets from the Spirit Awards show talking to protesters over the railing that kept them separated on the sidewalk. The video bears a caption reading, “We told them we’ll stop when they called for a ceasefire. Their producers refused.”

Gerima says in that video, “A whole industry of communicators is absolutely silent in the face of genocide. And so we say no business as usual, not even in Hollywood.”

A man speaks into a loudspeaker.
Merawi Gerima, left, among the protesters at the 2024 Spirit Awards ceremony. Gerima previously won a Spirit Award in 2021 for his film “Residue.”
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

“Residue” was distributed by Ava DuVernay’s Array Releasing. Gerima’s parents are the filmmakers Haile Gerima and Shirikiana Aina. Haile Gerima, best known for “Sankofa” and “Ashes and Embers,” received the inaugural Vantage Award from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in 2020.

A request for comment from Merawi Gerima on Monday has not yet been responded to. Film Independent, the organization that puts on the Spirit Awards, did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday’s protest.

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