Hollywood #MeToo march helps give legs to movement in wake of latest sexual assault allegations

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Survivors of sexual assault and harassment gathered Sunday, Nov. 12, in Hollywood to take part in a march under the slogan #MeToo as cascading allegations have continued to surface against powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond.

Yoga teacher and psychotherapist Linda Crossley said she made the trip from Huntington Beach to support the effort to prevent the voices of women, or anyone oppressed or abused, to be silenced again.

“I feel like every woman has been harassed, abused or assaulted in some way and I’m so excited about the energy level getting to this point, the tipping point, so it’s never going to be hidden again,” Crossley said shortly before participating in the Me Too Survivors’ March.

At the same time, members of the entertainment industry held a Take Back the Workplace march and rally here in an effort to bring protest of sexual harassment in the workplace to the streets.

Holding signs that read “Stronger Together” and “Farmworker Leaders: Say No to Sexual Harassment,” both groups — made up of hundreds of people — began their demonstrations at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue around 10 a.m. and marched to the CNN Building on Sunset Boulevard.

Cathy Schulman, the Academy-Award winning producer of the movie “Crash,” told hundreds who gathered at the Take Back the Workplace rally there that prejudice against women in the workplace must be addressed “from the top down.”

“We need gender balance and diverse boards at all companies,” Schulman said in front of the CNN Building Sunday afternoon.  “And we need women and diverse people around the decision-making tables.”

Organizers at this rally called for doing away with confidential arbitration clauses and non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts, which they said restrict exposure of workplace harassment and assault.

Allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and others have rocked the entertainment industry in recent weeks, sparking an international discussion about a longtime scourge often hidden from public view.

“It bothers me that we do only pay attention when it’s someone famous,” Brenda Gutierrez, lead organizer of the Me Too Survivors’ March, said at their own rally at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue a short time later.

“We are forgetting this happens in our communities every day. It happens in our military. It happens to our indigenous women.”

Seeing supporters of the movement come out in force made Gutierrez want to cry because years ago, she said, she thought she was alone.

“And I’m looking at the audience and I realize I’m not alone and neither are you because we are here for you,” she said. “We will no longer be ashamed.”

Tarana Burke launched the Me Too movement about a decade ago through the nonprofit she co-founded, Just Be Inc., that focuses on the health and well-being of young women of color.

“The origins of Me Too are rooted deep in the most marginalized communities — in school cafeterias and church basements that provided safe spaces for black and brown girls forgotten and dismissed by those who have resources to help them,” Burke told the crowd at the Me Too rally.

“We can march and we can make our own voices heard but if we are not centering and elevating the voices often drowned out….then our work will ring hollow,” she added.

The phrase #MeToo became pervasive on social media after actress and activist Alyssa Milano, following the Weinstein allegations, asked her followers on Twitter to acknowledge their own sexual assault and harassment experiences using the hashtag #MeToo.

Anthony Solis, 40, of Hollywood said he came to the Me Too Survivors March to stand with women who have been sexually assaulted, as well as men.

The activist said he had to share a hotel room with a man last year that he did not know well during a get-out-the-vote campaign in another state. Solis said he woke up in the middle of the night to the man naked in his bed touching him without his permission.

Someone from the organization he went with advised him to go to a battered women’s shelter, which was not helpful, he said.

“I just wanted people to know out there that this happens to men,” he said, adding that he “felt pushed aside” after complaining of the man’s sexual misconduct.

Aleesha Barlow, who made the trip from the Bay Area to speak at the Me Too rally, said it was “magical” for her to be able to participate.

“This is the change that the world needs,” said Barlow, a survivor of child sexual abuse who created the Tell Somebody organization, which aims to end child abuse of all kinds.

Allegations of sexual misconduct have also rocked the news business, the California capitol and other industries in recent weeks.

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