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Al Sharpton at Diversity Protest: ‘This Will Be the Last Night of an All-White Oscars’

Just blocks from the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton led about 70 demonstrators in a rally and march circle to protest the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees.

“You are out of time,” Sharpton said, addressing the Academy. “We are not going to allow the Oscars to continue. This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars.”

Speaking to demonstrators gathered in a strip mall parking lot at Sunset and Highland, Sharpton promised a longer protest, along with pressure on advertisers, if the situation doesn’t change next year.

“We are not saying who should win. But if you are locked out of the process you are dealing with a systemic exclusion,” he said.

As he marched, Sharpton told Variety that the changes the Academy has announced to diversify its membership “is a step in the right direction. The problem is, they didn’t announce anything until we came out against the second year nominations. They told us last year they would make a move and change things, and they didn’t. Then when we denounced this year’s, they called an emergency meeting. It took them a year to call an emergency meeting.”

Sharpton also noted that he had a meeting with Amy Pascal, then a Sony executive, over an email she wrote that was disclosed during the hack and was viewed as racially insensitive.

He told Variety, “She promised we were going to call on our colleagues to sit down and escalate how to put blacks and Latinos in decision-making, and none of that happened. So are they continuing to think they can delay on this?”

Sharpton’s National Action Network also staged demonstrations in New York, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta and Cleveland.

He said that this year they didn’t try to disrupt Oscar events, or “build up thousands or lay in front of cars, stop people from coming. This is a notice, but it will escalate. They cannot keep acting as if this was 1950 America.”

Sharpton marched in a circle around the parking lot with demonstrators, as funk music played and marchers chanted, “diversify the Academy.”

At one point Sharpton held before the crowd an Oscar painted white, saying that when statuettes are handed out this year, that is the color they should be. “That is decided who would win tonight,” he told the crowd.

He also called Chris Rock, who is hosting the show, “a great entertainer.” But he said that “this is not about Chris Rock,” or, he said, other performers, like Leonardo DiCaprio.

“We are not anti-Leonardo. I are anti exclusion, by the Academy and by those that run the major movie studios that have made the decisions.” Sharpton said.

Mollie Bell, 69, a resident of Compton who works for the postal service, said that she is an avid moviegoer but came to the event because she wanted Hollywood to know “we are more than just a ticket buyer.”

“As an African American, I spent good time and money at the movies,” she said. “And a lot of black people. they are actors and actresses. Why should they not be recognized for their craft? The film industry, albeit the Oscars, the Emmys, Golden Globes, NAACP. All of them should recognize them for the work that they have done. So I came here on a Sunday to be an activist agitator, just to shake up the waters a little bit.”

As limousines and SUVs drove by to a security checkpoint, the demonstrators marched peacefully in a circle for about an hour, chanting “no justice, no peace” at points.

About 150 to 175 people, including a heavy contingent of media, gathered at the intersection.

“Chris Rock will tell good jokes because he’s a good comedian. He’s a great entertainer. He tells jokes. I tell the truth. This is not about Chris Rock. This is about Hattie McDaniel. This is about  that were shut out and discriminated against. This is about what is real and what must be dealt.

“We are not anti-Leonardo. I are anti exclusion, by the Academy and by those that run the major movie studios that have made the decisions.

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