Al Sharpton Calls for Broader Protests on Oscars Diversity

Al Sharpton - H 2016
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"This is not about Chris Rock. This is about Hattie McDaniel," he said, referencing the first black actress to win an Academy Award.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday threatened larger protests against Hollywood and the Academy Awards if the ceremony doesn't improve diversity among its top nominees.

Sharpton led dozens of protesters who marched and chanted for diversity in the film industry just blocks away from the venue where the Oscars will be handed out Sunday.

"This will be the last night of an all-white Oscars," Sharpton said, promising larger protests that will encompass several days if Hollywood and future Oscars ceremonies don't recognize diverse actors and filmmakers. The 88th annual Academy Awards have been criticized for nominating an all-white slate of acting nominees for the second year in a row, and also failing to nominate the directors or black castmembers of Straight Outta Compton and Creed.

Sharpton has called on audiences to boycott of the ceremony, and Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, and director Spike Lee have said they would not attend Sunday's ceremony, which is being hosted by Chris Rock.

Some of the signs held by protesters included the slogans, "Hollywood Must Do Better" and "Shame on You."

Protesters also yelled,"Hollywood, Hollywood, you ain't looking so good" before Sharpton's remarks, and "This is what diversity looks like" during a march around a vacant shopping center parking lot near the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Oscar-winning actors Louis Gossett Jr. and Whoopi Goldberg attended the Oscars ceremony. Gossett Jr. said he sympathized with the protesters, but felt change needed to come from within.

Goldberg urged protesters to not just boycott the Oscars, but movies that didn't reflect diversity as well.

"If you really want to protest, then don't go to the movies that don't have the people you want to see," said Goldberg.

Sharpton kept his arguments focused on Hollywood and the Academy and its membership, not individual acting nominees or Rock.

"He tells jokes, I tell the truth," said Sharpton. "This is not about Chris Rock. This is about Hattie McDaniel," he said, referencing the first black actress to win an Academy Award. McDaniel won for her role in 1939's Gone With the Wind but was seated at a table in the back of the ceremony.

"We are not anti-Leonardo," Sharpton said of best actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio. "We are anti-exclusion."

Sharpton's protest was one of several planned around the country. The online slogan #OscarsSoWhite — which first appeared last year after the Academy nominated only white actors — was already in heavy use on Twitter before the ceremony.

About 20 protesters allied with Sharpton's National Action Network gathered outside ABC's New York studios, shouting "No justice, no peace!" The slogan echoed past the metal barricades that penned in the small gathering, overlapping age-old civil rights issues with the latest cause surrounding the Oscars.

Diversity wasn't the only cause to attract attention from Oscar nominees on Sunday. Best supporting actor nominee Mark Ruffalo and Spotlight director Tom McCarthy joined a protest against sex abuse in the Catholic Church outside Los Angeles' downtown cathedral.

Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The rally was one of several nationwide organized by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"I'm here to stand with the survivors and the victims and the people we've lost from Catholic priest childhood sex abuse," Ruffalo said, according to the Los Angeles Times.