Protesters Turn Oscars Red Carpet Into Gridlock as Show Threatens to Start With Many Empty Seats

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Hundreds of protesters have shut down a major section of Hollywood during the Oscars red carpet, turning Hollywood’s biggest night into a traffic nightmare. With just a few minutes ahead of the telecast’s scheduled start time, much of the ballroom is uncharacteristically empty and people are running to their seats.

There was a growing sense of anxiety from production staffers and publicists on the red carpet that tonight’s Oscars will not start on time due to the gridlock. The broadcast itself kicked off five minutes late.

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Protesters shut down Sunset Boulevard between Vine Street and La Brea Avenue. They marched down the street with signs that read “No awards for genocide” and drove school buses covered with Palestinian flags. Police ordered the protest to disperse and waited on Sunset Boulevard with battering rams.

Executives, such as Bob Iger, waited an hour to walk the red carpet due to the traffic jam. Some people abandoned their black-tie attire and high heels to walk uphill from Sunset Boulevard to the Dolby Theatre. Production staffers sent golf carts to transports attendees waiting in SUVs; the Dolby Theater may need to rely on seat fillers until attendees can get inside.

On the red carpet, “What Was I Made For?” singer Billie Eilish, “Poor Things” star Ramy Youssef and more celebrities wore red pins in support of Artists for Ceasefire at the Oscars red carpet on Sunday.

“We’re calling for immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza. We’re calling for peace and lasting justice for the people of Palestine,” Youssef told Variety‘s Marc Malkin on the red carpet. “It’s a universal message of, ‘Let’s stop killing kids. Let’s not be part of more war.’ No one has ever looked back at war and thought a bombing campaign was a good idea. To be surrounded by so many artists who are willing to lend their voices, the list is growing. A lot of people are going to be wearing these pins tonight. There’s a lot of talking heads on the news, this is a space of talking hearts. We’re trying to have this big beam to humanity.”

In October, a group of 400 prominent artists signed a letter urging U.S. President Joe Biden to demand a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. The signees included Youssef, Mark Ruffalo Joaquin Phoenix, Cate Blanchett, Jon Stewart, Kristen Stewart, Susan Sarandon, Mahershala Ali, Riz Ahmed, Quinta Brunson and more.

Also sporting the Artists for Ceasefire pins on Sunday’s Oscars red carpet were “Nimona” actor Eugene Lee Yang, director Ava DuVernay, director Misan Harriman, who is behind best live action short nominee “The After,” and writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania, of best documentary feature nominee “Four Daughters.” At last month’s Grammys red carpet, Boygenius members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker wore the same red pins.

“There’s no other route,” Youssef said of calling for a ceasefire. “It’s taking so long. The president has called for it in the State of the Union. We need to look at ourselves and be honest, if the leadership supposedly thinks that should happen, why has it not happened? That’s what we’re all encouraging everyone to be vocal about.”

This is not the first time that activism has intersected with awards season this year. On Feb. 25, a pro-Palestine protest disrupted the Independent Spirit Awards, which took place at a tent near Santa Monica Beach. A protestor with a speaker and pre-recorded message not only affected the in-person event but could be heard on the live broadcast as well. Depending on where attendees were located in the tent, the messages of “Free, free Palestine,” “Long live Palestine” and “Ceasefire now” were audible or sounded like a loud noise. Security moved a shuttle in front of the protest in an effort to muffle the disruption.

Spirits host Aidy Bryant acknowledged the protest, saying, “Look, we are at the beach, and people are practicing their freedom of speech.”

Babak Jalali, who directed “Fremont” and won the John Cassavetes Award also commented on the protest at the time. “There are people outside,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re saying, but whatever they’re saying is probably a lot more important than what I’m about to say. I’m so inspired by what they are saying outside that I can’t think about what to say.”

The 96th Academy Awards is taking place at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Sunday. Jimmy Kimmel hosted the prestigious ceremony, where Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” was the most nominated film with 13 recognitions. Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” received 11 nominations and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” received ten. ABC airs the live ceremony at a new time this year, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.

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