Saturday, February 21, 2009

First pictures of Jerry Lewis Oscar protest available

Picture from Radar Online. Press release from The Trouble with Jerry, where more pictures are available.

LOS ANGELES – Nearly 50 activists from across the US protested at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) headquarters in Beverly Hills Feb. 20, demanding to meet with AMPAS officials and to present a petition signed by over 2600 individuals objecting to the plan to grant Jerry Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this Sunday's Oscar Awards ceremony.

The protesters, mostly people with disabilities, occupied the lobby and refused to leave. Finally, AMPAS Executive Director Bruce Davis was summoned to meet with the group, called The Trouble with Jerry. Lewis has long defended the use of pity as a fundraising tactic. He has also described disabled individuals as “half a person” and referred to a wheelchair as "a steel imprisonment."

At both the Kodak Theater and AMPAS, protesters distributed leaflets to mostly sympathetic pedestrians, including stars such as John Lithgow and Richard Libertini, as they came to collect their tickets for Sunday’s Academy Awards. Then protesters entered the AMPAS office to deliver the petition, printed on a long scroll of red paper, and featuring comments by 2642 people from around the world. Initially academy officers refused to accept the petition. Activists continued to occupy the lobby, singing songs and chanting "No award for Jerry Lewis!" AMPAS officials apparently called the police to eject the protesters, but before any arrests were made, Davis arrived to meet with the group's leadership.

During the meeting, protesters expressed the outrage they felt when they learned of the award, after having listened to Jerry Lewis' portrayals of life with a disability as incomplete, unsatisfying, even wasteful. "I have my own business, my own home, and a relationship," said advocate and writer Gary Karp. "Jerry Lewis would have you believe that people with disabilities can have none of those things."

Davis admitted to being aware of the longstanding concerns of the disability community about Lewis. However, Davis defended the award, pointing to the large sums of money that Lewis has raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Davis asked the group whether those funds have not done some good.

Unanimously, the protesters responded that the harm done to disabled people's public image far outweighed the impact of the research dollars.. "The issue is how he raised that money," author and scholar Simi Linton told Davis. "Jerry Lewis trades on our dignity."