Spirit Awards’ Broadcast Derailed by Chants From Pro-Ceasefire Protesters

Aude Guerrucci/Reuters
Aude Guerrucci/Reuters

A small but loud cohort of protesters calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip derailed the Independent Spirit Awards on Sunday, forcing award winners to choose between addressing the group’s chants or awkwardly ignoring them.

The awards show, which honored the best independent films and television series of 2023, was held inside a massive beachfront tent in Santa Monica, California, which allowed the protesters to have their voices heard on a livestream despite them being physically outside the event.

Chants of “free Palestine,” “long live Palestine” and “ceasefire now” could be heard on the broadcast, which was streamed to YouTube by IMBD. Citing sources, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the “very audible” chants began when actors were being photographed on the red carpet and carried on into showtime.

The chants made for some awkward moments on stage while event organizers tried to drown them out by placing a bus between the protesters and the tent, reported the Hollywood Reporter, citing a source.

The awards’ host, SNL star Aidy Bryant, eventually acknowledged the protest and explained that, due to the event’s location on a public beach, that the protesters had a right to be there.

“We are at the beach and people are practicing their freedom of speech,” she said.

Others approached the chants outside a tad differently. When the comedian Jimmy O. Yang took to the stage, he referenced the “heckler” outside before cracking a joke about them.

“We’re a bunch of people making indie films—we’re used to getting yelled at,” he said to the crowd. “It’s comforting, it’s like my childhood.”

Actress Kelly Reichardt finished her brief remarks by saying that “life goes on outside the tent,” a likely reference to the protesters, and director Babak Jalali appeared to embrace the protest when he spoke on stage.

“There are people outside,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re saying, but whatever they’re saying is probably a lot more important than what I’m about to say. I’m so inspired by what they are saying outside that I can’t think about what to say.”

Variety reported that, at times, the protesters were louder than the award show itself. It added that some guests left the show early to see what the commotion outside was about.

The Spirit Awards is the first event to be impacted significantly by a protest since award season kicked off earlier this year. The event’s organizers did not immediately comment on the protest.

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