Over 100 protestors gathered on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival on January 21 to show solidarity for Palestine and protest Israel, U.S. president Joe Biden, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the media they see as complicit, and attendees of Sundance for remaining silent about Israel’s war inside the Gaza Strip.
The “Let Gaza Live” protest kicked off shortly before 1 p.m. MT on Sunday, with demonstrators gathering at Kimball Junction bus station before marching on Main Street and settling just in front of the “Pizza and Noodle” restaurant. Protestors carried Palestinian flags, signs, and banners with expressions like “Ceasefire Now,” “Deplatform Zionism,” and “Let Gaza Live,” among many others.
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The group was led in a series of chants for 15 minutes before leaders of the group paused to deliver speeches through a megaphone, all while a handful of other counter-protesting passersby began shouting from across the street in defense of Israel and calling out Hamas. One brandished an Israeli flag and with his own microphone began reciting names of individuals killed in the Hamas attack on October 7, while another shouted at the demonstrators that their words were antisemitic.
As for the pro-Palestinian protestors: “Genocide Joe, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today,” the group chanted in condemnation of President Biden for not having achieved a cease fire from behind the scenes — the U.S. is the closest ally of Israel, especially in terms of military and financial support. “Netanyahu, what do you say? How many kids did you bomb today?”
Other chants included “From the sea to the river Palestine will live forever/from the river to the sea Palestine will be free,” “Resistance is justified when people are occupied,” and “Shame!”
One of the lead organizers of the demonstration at one point shouted “Shame on Sundance” but later said that the group was not protesting Sundance but those attending the festival who they believe are “sleepwalking” and ignoring the ongoing violence in Gaza. The group also called out the complicity of the news media for failing to mention Palestinians in the coverage of the attacks.
Another demonstrator speaking to the crowd gave Biden a list of demands and threatened to vote the president out in the election this coming November if they are not met, including to “recognize Palestine” and “rebuild Gaza.”
The protest remained peaceful, and the group was accompanied by a security group that called themselves Armed Queers of Salt Lake City. A group of about a half dozen guards wearing pink bandana armbands arrived around noon and surveyed the scene. Park City Highway patrol also lined the opposite end of the street, and Main Street was blocked with a city bus. However, other Sundance attendees still walked up and down Main Street while the demonstration was ongoing.
Deadline also reported that Melissa Barrera, who was fired from her role in the “Scream” franchise because of statements the production company deemed antisemitic, was also among the Palestinian protestors.
“Pose” star Indya Moore, who is in town for the film “Ponyboi,” also joined the protestors and at one point took the microphone pleading for empathy and peace. “I love everybody. I love people. I have Israeli friends. I have Jewish friends. I have Palestinian friends. Everybody sees what’s happening. They all agree. There needs to be a ceasefire. Stop telling us to hate each other. Stop telling us they hate each other. They also know that the Palestinian children that have been murdered are not responsible for freeing the hostages right now. That’s just the truth, right? The children are innocent.”
As IndieWire reported on Friday, the “Let Gaza Live” protest was scheduled to take place almost at the same time as a panel to highlight representation for Jews and Israelis in the media. Neither the panel nor the demonstration were affiliated with Sundance, and the festival in a statement to press on Friday said “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 protestors were made up of entertainment workers and healthcare workers representing a collective of pro-Palestinian groups across Salt Lake City and Utah. Ambreen Khan, one of the organizers, told IndieWire the intention of the protest was “to call the media out for reporting biases that it has had on this topic, specifically things like avoiding calling this a genocide or avoiding using even Palestine when reporting or under-representing the numbers of people that show up.”
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