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Chelsea Handler at Sundance Film Festival Women’s March: ‘Don’t Lose Hope’

PARK CITY — With chants of “Make America Great, Love Trumps Hate,” several hundred women and a cadre of supportive men took to the snow-bound streets here Saturday morning to protest the ascension of Donald J. Trump to the White House and to speak out for causes ranging from environmental protection, to LGBTQ rights to embracing immigrants of all races and religions.

The march kicked off a little after 9 a.m. local time, an hour after the scheduled start of a massive march and rally in Washington D.C. for the same causes. It coincided with similar protests around America, and the world.

Talk show personality Chelsea Handler organized and led the protest, which was expected to include Aisha Tyler, Connie Britton, Dolores Huerta, Peter Bratt, Maria Bello, Laurie David, and politicians including Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Park City Youth Mayor Maya Levine. Laura Dern and Charlize Theron were also visible in the crowd.

Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics was also set to attend, along with Sundance director John Cooper, though he said the festival had no official association with the protest.

A myriad of signs showed the creativity of the entertainment industry assembled for the event and of local activists here in Park City for the Sundance Film Festival: “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off My Human Rights!” read one. Others that thrilled the ebullient crowd: “I’ve Got My Eye On You, P—y Grabber,” “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” and “I Stand With Her” — just one of the ubiquitous placards backing defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The quarter mile walk from the top of Main Street to a parking lot at the center of town stands as the centerpiece of what inevitably has become a politically charged Sundance. The partisan tone of the 11-day festival seemed assured given the pronounced liberal tilt of the film industry and the timing of the event, with the opening films screening the night before Trump’s Friday inauguration.

The political charge became even more pronounced when the festival made Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the festival’s kickoff film. Gore spoke passionately about the continuing to push to slow global warming, which the new president says he is not sure he believes in.

The former Vice President made no direct attacks on Trump, but his anxiety about the new commander in chief became clear in remarks after two screenings of his new film, a bookend to 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Gore equated the push for renewable energy to other “great moral causes,” like women’s suffrage and civil rights, and said the sustainability agenda faced a great new challenge. He concluded: “There is now important time to speak truth to power.”

Other debut films here couldn’t help but taking on a political tinge. The documentary, “Trophy” addressed the scourge of big-game hunting. But some in the premiere audience couldn’t help but recall photos that have filled the internet of Trump’s sons posed with majestic animals, like a jaguar and elephant, that have been killed.

Even screenings of non-ideological films, like director Charlie McDowell’s “The Discovery” bristled with political talk. McDowell told the audience at the Eccles Center Theater that now was a critical time for them to raise their voices as artists. “I’m not a lawyer but I do know this,” McDowell said, “we need to protect our right to tell controversial stories.”

Even some who are not huge Trump fans were not supportive of the massive push back against him coming so quickly. “He hasn’t even been in office a full day,” said one Park City man, who is a long-time supporter of the festival, but declined to be named. “Let’s see what he actually does first.”

There were voices of defiance and resolve throughout the crowd of about 800. “I think our voices have to be heard,” said entertainment attorney Linda Lichter. “We know we had the majority in the popular vote and we are out here to say we will not be silenced. And we are watching what is happening in Washington very, very closely.”

Monica Devereux said she was marching here in solidarity with other women, while her husband,  director Chris Columbus, marched in Los Angeles and her daughter did the same in Washington. She said she had to come out after some of Trump’s remarks about women.

“I was just astounded by his vulgarity toward women and his attempts to take away our rights,” Devereux said. “I hope women show today we can be a really strong force , such a force that we can’t be pushed aside. …with many, many men too.”

As the march drew to an end in a parking lot near the end of Main Street, Handler and others addressed the crowd. “Today we are all standing together in solidarity,” Handler said. She said “a huge setback” has been suffered with Trump’s win but that it was time to push back. “If you object to the work done by Planned Parenthood, then we object to your objection.”

Reaching for a silver lining, Handler said that a loss by Trump might have made progressives “complacent.” She said now the Trump victory made activists like her realize “we were the new Tea Party.”

“You’re not alone,” Handler told the crowd. “Don’t lose hope.”

Watch Variety’s live stream from the Women’s March at Sundance:

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