Sundance Main Street Closed as Pro-Palestinian Protesters Advocate for Cease-Fire

The peaceful Let Gaza Live protest was planned weeks prior to the festival, inspired by Palestinian people using art as a form of resistance.

Sundance Main Street Closed as Pro-Palestinian Protesters Advocate for Cease-Fire
Protestors shut down traffic last Sunday at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Photo source: Palestinian Solidarity Association of Utah

Several hundred pro-Palestinian protesters shut down Main Street at the Sundance Film Festival while calling for cease-fire on Sunday, Jan. 21. The protestors openly criticized the Biden administration's stance on Israel, drawing parallels to anti-Vietnam War chants as they called for President Biden to stop his support of the conflict. The demonstration, also known as Let Gaza Live, led to the closure of Main Street in the festival’s home of Park City, Utah.

The event was organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Association of Utah (PSAU), a local advocacy group that formed in 2021 to seek liberation for Palestine. The peaceful Let Gaza Live protest was planned weeks prior to the festival, inspired by Palestinian people using art as a form of resistance. “While bombs are dropping, the people cannot continue watching films on their screens while ignoring a genocide in Gaza,” organizers said in a post on social media. “Amidst the intentional silence of our media outlets regarding the ongoing genocide in Gaza, they withhold the stark realities from public view. Despite the global outcry for a cease-fire, [they] refuse to show our unity.” The organizers concluded by vowing to defy this silence by standing in solidarity with Palestine.

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Notable participants at the protest included at least one representative from the Islamic Scholarship Fund (ISF), as well as modern scream queen Melissa Barrera and "Pose" (2018–2021) star Indya Moore.

“We fully support every single artist’s right to make art that they want to make and protest for free Palestine,” a representative for ISF told Deadline.

Another anonymous protester on Main Street said, “I support an end to all genocide that includes the genocide that’s happening right now.” 

Barrera, who is at the festival for her new film “Your Monster” (2024), has been outspoken with her support for Palestine. She recently made headlines for calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and freedom for Palestine, leading to consequences in her career. Previously, Barrera served as the lead in Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s successful reboot to the “Scream” franchise, but her comments on the ongoing violence in Gaza saw her fired from “Scream VII” by the studio Spyglass Media, who viewed her remarks condemning Israel as anti-Semitic.

When asked for comment, Barrera told Deadline she was “not doing any interviews, but you are welcome to take video of me.” Later, Barrera joined the crowd of protestors to recite chants such as, “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.” 

At the protest, Moore — who is attending Sundance for the festival premiere of “Ponyboi” (2024) — took the microphone to advocate for cease-fire from her position as a marginalized creator. “I have Israeli friends,” Moore started. “I have Jewish friends. I have Palestinian friends. Everybody sees what’s happening. They all agree, there needs to be a cease-fire.”

Moore continued by saying, “If you care about life, if you care about dignity, if you care about freedom, you care about the self-determination of everybody … This is about life. That’s why I’m here. I’m trans, right? It’s about love. Free Palestine is about equality for everybody.”

The larger Sunday rally was proceeded by a gathering of 25 pro-Palestinian protestors earlier in the morning. The day prior, a group of film workers for Palestine held a vigil near Main Street that featured organizers reading the names of those who suffered martyrdom. One of those who spoke at the vigil was Palestinian Muslim filmmaker and “Angel of Gaza” documentary director Ahmed Mansour.

“While we do not take issue with Sundance as a whole, we aim to let spectators and news reporters know that Utah stands with Palestine,” PSAU told Deadline. The organizers are not affiliated with the overall Sundance Film Festival.

Calls for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza War and protests surrounding the conflict have been supported by those in the entertainment industry since the start of the conflict. Most recently, the organization Film Workers for Palestine issued an open letter urging filmmakers and cinema workers, including Sundance participants, to support ending genocide and advocating for a free Palestine.

Political engagement is common at Sundance, with past protests including the 2017 and 2018 Women's Marches responding to the Trump presidency. Organized by Chelsea Handler, the 2017 March on Main drew 8,000 participants, while the 2018 rally, attended by Tessa Thompson and other high profile actors, had over 400 attendees despite a snowstorm. Other protests have occurred during the festival, such as one outside the premiere of Kevin Smith’s 2015 short “Red State.”

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