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Strikegeist Daily: Violence at the Gates
Two writers were hit by a car at a picket line last week at Universal, and tensions arose between a driver and writers yesterday
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Writers Shawn DePasquale and Nick Parker were picketing last Thursday at Universal Studios, marching back and forth the crosswalk outside the Telemundo gate, when they say a driver in a navy blue Infiniti sedan exiting the studio lot suddenly “lurched” at DePasquale, hitting his leg.
DePasquale says he slammed his hands on the hood of the car in reaction. “I said, ‘Hey dude, like, watch out.’ He gave me the finger. And at that point, I was like, ‘Okay, this guy is nuts.’ I started to move out of the way and then he lurched forward again, and that’s when he hit Nick, who was I guess a couple feet behind me.”
Parker, whose credits include Zoo and Haven, said there were about 30 to 40 people on the picket line at that gate, and had been making sure to clear the crosswalk routinely in order to “let any waiting traffic out if need be, just to be accommodating to that.”
But after the driver hit DePasquale, he “accelerated into me in the crosswalk and kind of hit me in my right knee, spun me around, and I slammed my sign down on his hood because I was shocked and pretty angry at that time,” said Parker, later adding, “He knew exactly what he was doing both times that he did it. He did it to Shawn and then instead of apologizing or anything like that, he flipped Shawn off, then screamed at all of us, and then did it again to me.”
The pair, who managed to get a photo of the car’s license plate, filed a police report with the LAPD (which The Ankler reviewed), but have not heard back about the incident.
The mood of the writers walking the line largely has been convivial so far, with drivers often honking their support as they pass. But several incidents have served as a reminder that even the most peaceful protest can quickly go sideways.
Around the same time of day on Monday, at the James Stewart gate on the Universal lot, just a little ways up from the Telemundo gate, picketers exchanged sharp words with a driver. In video obtained by The Ankler, a man in a black Range Rover can be seen antagonizing the strikers by slowly but forcefully driving the car through a crowd of picketers walking along the pedestrian crossing, despite them yelling at him to stop.
According to the picketer who took the video: “We had the light and were on the crosswalk when suddenly he tried to turn into the studio entrance. We screamed and yelled. He didn’t seem to care. Eventually some of us started filming and chanting ‘safety first,’ which made him slow down a bit, while still determined to go in, as if he was on a deadline or something.”
“It was quite disappointing because from a minority (me) to another minority (him) how do you not understand what we’re doing here?” added this person, whose identity is known to The Ankler but prefers to remain anonymous out of concern of professional retaliation. “But at the same time, I still felt bad for him because he probably was trying to not lose his job, so the studio is ultimately the main villain here.”
“The audacity — we’re just out here asking for better wages and you’re willing to hit us,” said writer Dani Fernandez, who witnessed the incident, which took place on Latinx picket day at Universal. (Writers have begun organizing themed days; DePasquale and Parker were hit by a car during a Star Wars-themed May the 4th picket.)
“You think that we’re in your way when we’re really fighting for you,” she told me while picketing at Netflix late this morning. “Especially if you’re a driver, if you’re a driver that is driving someone, if someone is in the back [of the car] that works here… I doubt that they have any loyalty to you either.”
When I reached out to NBCU this afternoon for comment, a spokesperson said, “We respect the rights of demonstrators to picket safely and employees have been informed to enter and exit the property carefully, including waiting until demonstrators fully clear the area.”
The incidents have shaken up some writers. DePasquale said he sought out medical attention afterward but isn’t experiencing any lingering physical pain. “But it was freaking scary, man.”
Still, it has only emboldened him to continue participating in the WGA strike.
“It steeled my resolve. I’m not going to get scared away,” says DePasquale. “I believe in what we’re doing here and I think that if we don’t do it now, we’re going to see the impact of not fighting harder in the future.”
Elsewhere on the Picket Lines…
Superstore and Maggie star Nichole Sakura on why she’s supporting the writers’ strike.
Today in Strike News
A WGA “hit squad” has been deployed to target specific filming locations and has already shut down Marvel’s Wonder Man and Apple TV+’s Loot. (Deadline)
Amid the strike, the upcoming Cannes Film Festival may look a little different this time around. (Variety)
With negotiations set to begin tomorrow, the head of the Directors Guild has told its members “we are ready to fight.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
One thing the writers strike has made abundantly clear: the additional challenges Latinos and writers of color have to overcome. (Axios)
With streaming at the forefront of the negotiations, Hollywood has begun deeming it “the Netflix strike.” (Los Angeles Times)
The picketing has extended all the way out to the City of Brotherly Love, with Ridley Scott’s Apple TV+ series Sinking Spring, filming in Philadelphia, forced to shut down. (Deadline)
Though the Emmys remain months away, FYC events have been thrown into disarray with writers absent from the proceedings. (IndieWire)
Picket Sign of the Day
Holds up even a decade after the original Dril tweet.
Additional reporting by Matthew Frank