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Oscar night protests highlight lack of diversity in films

A group of protesters from the National Action

A group of protesters from the National Action Network demonstrate against the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations outside WABC's Manhattan headquarters on Feb. 28, 2016. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Protesters and actors alike used Hollywood’s biggest night to call for more diversity in the film industry, following the second consecutive year in which no actors of color were nominated for an Academy Award.

Several dozen protesters gathered in front of the ABC studios on the Upper West Side Sunday, as part of protests organized in several U.S. cities by the National Action Network, a civil rights group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, calling for “diversity, inclusion and justice” in Hollywood.

“Hopefully next year we can have Oscars, not the white Oscars,” Sharpton said in a video posted on his Twitter account.

The exclusion of nonwhite nominees prompted actors including Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith and director Spike Lee to call for a boycott of the event.

In Manhattan, protesters repeatedly shouted the Black Lives Matter chant, “no justice no peace,” and “blackout the Oscars,” in reference to the boycott.

“I’m tired of the whitewashing in Hollywood, I’m tired of seeing African and Egyptian Gods being portrayed by Swedish or European Actors,” said Khadija Amon-Ra, 45, a makeup artist from Chelsea who was among the protesters. “We all should be represented in film and be rewarded for what we do.”

Award ceremony host Chris Rock devoted the bulk of his opening remarks to addressing the controversy, joking that Oscars were the “White People’s Choice Awards.”

Best supporting actor nominee Mark Ruffalo, who lives in upstate New York, used the occasion to draw attention to sexual abuse by the clergy. In the film “Spotlight,” Ruffalo plays a Boston Globe investigative reporter who helped uncover widespread sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hours before the award ceremony, Ruffalo joined members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, for a protest outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Protesters called for the names of pedophile priests to be released, according to his Twitter account.

“Standing with the survivors of Priest sexual abuse!” Ruffalo wrote on his Twitter account.

With amNewYork

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