Gathering is the largest since walkout began

With the WGA strike in its fifth day, scribes and their leaders have remained strident – and unapologetic – with an energetic rally that drew an estimated 4,000 supporters in Century City.

“We’re shutting down production and kicking corporate ass,” declared WGA West president Patric Verrone at the top of a 90-minute rally on Friday morning at Fox Plaza.

The event – which closed down Avenue of the Stars between Pico and Santa Monica boulevards – included speeches from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg, “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and producer Norman Lear. Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine performed a two-song set at the top of the rally.

The crowd chanted “We want a deal” repeatedly. And MacFarlane evoked perhaps the loudest response by recounting that all “Family Guy” assistants had been fired on the third day of the strike.

“Instead of negotiating, they lashed out at the little guy,” MacFarlane added. “What a classy move.”

The event capped a week of pickets at all 14 major lots in the Los Angeles area, with WGA execs asserting that each day attracted more than 3,000 supporters. And the protests – urging studios and nets to return to the bargaining table — are starting to have a decided impact, according to WGA West exec director David Young.

“I’m here to tell you that on Day 5, we are winning this strike,” he asserted. “Suck it up, stick it out. We shall prevail.”

Move came with no new talks scheduled between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Verrone, Young and negotiating committee chief John Bowman all insisted that the Guild’s ready to bargain at any time.

“Come back to the table, baby,” Bowman said of the AMPTP, the negotiating arm for the companies. “We can work it out. As long as you come back to the table with a fair deal, we’ll greet you with open arms.”

But the guild leaders stressed that the final deal has to include improvements how writers are paid for work in new media and its re-use — rather than waiting for that sector of the business to develop a coherent business model, as companies have insisted. That argument has led to writers’ seeing their relationship with the companies becoming frayed, Young said.

“We are in the process of being left behind,” he added, noting that the AMPTP has made the same arguments in the past over videocassettes, DVDs, cable and reality TV. That assertion prompted many in the crowd to chant, “Bullshit” in unison for the next half minute.

“We cannot screw this up,” Young added. “We’re going to have to get it right this time.”

Young also noted that the strike’s been supported by every other writers guild in English-speaking nations and gave credit to SAG and the Teamsters for their support on picket lines.

Rosenberg drew enthusiastic cheers throughout his five-minute speech, in which he focused on the declining status of middle-class creatives in Hollywood over the past three decades.

“They worry about profit margins and we worry about paying our bills,” he added.

Jackson’s speech included his signature call-and-response style with such aphorisms as “Save the workers, share the wealth,” “Partners, not peons,” “Too few control too much,” “The American Dream is worth fighting for,” and “Let’s figure it out, not fight it out.”

Lear ended the rally with a short speech and evoked a big laugh by asserting, “I was here when we struck against the Pharoah.”

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