Spike Lee Leads Gun Violence Protest After ‘Chi-Raq’ Premiere

chi raq premiere gun violence protest
Stephen Lovekin/Variety/REX Shutterstock

The fact that Chicago’s police superintendent was fired hours before the premiere of Spike Lee’s latest feature, “Chi-Raq,” only reinforced the timeliness of the movie’s message about the senselessness of gun violence and racial discrimination. And instead of an after-party, Lee led many attendees out of Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater on a march down Broadway to Times Square.

The movie, the first feature produced by Amazon Studios, is a loose adaptation of the ancient Greek drama “Lysistrata.” In Lee’s telling, a group of determined women in Chicago band together to demand that their husbands and lovers put down their weapons, or lose their intimate privileges.

“It was great in 411 B.C. — it’ll work today,” Lee said of the source material Tuesday night. “This film is about changing lives.”

Chicago is among the big U.S. cities that is suffering through a spike in violence and homicides, particularly among African-Americans. Protests have rocked the city in the past few days following the release of a video showing the police shooting a 17-year-old black teenager some 16 times last year. Lee said he hoped “Chi-Raq” would help inspire others to “work harder to make America safer.”

Kevin Willmott, who co-wrote the script with Lee, said the events of the day made for a “surreal” experience at the premiere. The movie was shot in Chicago last summer over a six-week period, which allowed cast members to see first-hand the issues depicted in the story. Chicago is the “epicenter” of violence at present but these issues are hardly isolated to one city, Willmott said. “It’s an American problem,” he noted. “It’s about guns, it’s about race, it’s about jobs. There’s nothing new about the problem.”

Lee and Willmott credited Amazon for stepping up with financing after many others passed. The two had tried to work together nearly a decade ago on a similar project, also based on “Lysistrata,” but couldn’t get it off the ground. After Amazon connected with Lee in its hunt for feature talent, the filmmaker called Willmott about 18 months ago to ask “You still got that script?” Willmott recalled.

Among the “Chi-Raq” stars on hand for Tuesday’s premiere were Wesley Snipes, John Cusack, Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, LaLa Anthony, Michelle Mitchenor and Harry Lennix. The movie is particularly meaningful to Lennix, a Chicago native and former schoolteacher. “It’s telling people there that we do care. We are listening,” Lennix said. “These people are not invisible.”

Longtime Lee friend John Turturro also came out for the screening — he gave Lee some advice on the pic as he had experience in doing the play on stage — along with the Rev. Al Sharpton and others.

After the screening, Lee passed out knit hats and orange-colored American flag pins and led the crowd on a “march in solidarity” with Chicago down Broadway to Times Square.

“Chi-Raq” opens in limited release in theaters via Roadside Attractions on Dec. 4. There’s no word yet on when it will be available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

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  1. Portia A. Booker, Author,Writer, Poet says:

    I am sorry to hear that Rev. Sharpton ‘s show was cancelled. I saw a clip on another network that Trump
    companies were requesting 1100 Visas from Europe. In traveling to New York Hampton areas and New
    Jersey Atlantic City I noticed an over whelming European accent in the service area. It seems like
    Trump is not so concerned about immigrants per say but only Latinos or other than Europeans.
    I think he basically wants to change the face of America. What I don’t understand is why so many of our
    people are looking the other way just because he has money and they believe he is going to share with
    them. I just wanted to hear Rev. say Mr. Trump we got you!

    Please forward this comment to Rev. Sharpton, I miss his commentary.

  2. Devonte says:

    Spike is like Pavlov’s bell to conservative racists as shown in this comment section. I’ll be supporting this movie and I agree with its message! Ya Dig Sho Nuff That’s the Truth Ruth!

  3. Gahan says:

    Blacks slaughter each other in Chicago on a daily basis. So, Spike leads a march in NYC to stop gun violence. The problem isn’t gun violence, it’s Black violence.

    • cadavra says:

      Of course, whites murder other whites at a rate more than twice that of black-on-black (82.4% to 40.9%, per the DOJ), but we can’t let the facts get in the way of a good racist rant, can we?

  4. Nanny Mo says:

    I’ve lost all respect for Spike (not that he cares.)

  5. warreng says:

    Unfortunately, racism will never go away due to scum bags like Spike Lee, Al Sharpton and now many Obama Democrats who have created a cottage industry in racism – enabling these racists to stay in the public eye, gain power and make money.
    #common sense matters

  6. Trudy says:

    If Lee and the Racebaiter Al Sharpton REALLY CARED about Black Lives & Gun Deaths, they’d March & Protest the Southside of Chicago EVERY DAY! 600 black kids have killed by gangs and drug cartels this year already.

  7. Chizz says:

    Another day, another protest march. Another day, nothing has changed and nobody cares.

    But yeah, keep on marching!

  8. GKN says:

    Where did that title come from? Not the ex-president of France, I presume?

  9. Michael Anthony says:

    Yes, all these “stars” and “wannabe” black leaders march in NYC against the violence in Chicago. Pretty far away from the scene?? When they marched last weekend, try marched and harassed the citizens in the shopping district. Not the areas where crime occurs.

    We’ve had 6 officer involved shootings this year. Most are justified. Although the 17 year old was probably murdered, it all started with him breaking into cars while high on PCP. Just think, no crime, he’d still be alive. Meanwhile 100s are dead because of gang vviolence.

    So, yell all u want Spike! Safely in NYC. If you really wanted to stop the violence you’d go the source. And despite their problems, the Mayor and the Police Chief didn’t create these gangs. Society didn’t either.

    • Jesse says:

      We will always have crime. There will always be criminals. “No crime, he’d still be alive” is not helpful or useful. Take a look at what Rahm’s education reform in Chicago did for the gang crime situation. It was already a problem, and his mismanagement of the way his city works only exasperated the problem. Society has a part to play in all this.

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