Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo hope their new film about the American civil rights movement will inspire U.S. protesters to keep current demonstrations peaceful in the aftermath of two controversial police killings.
Oyelowo has been nominated for a Golden Globe award for his portrayal of human rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film about the marches in Alabama he helped organize in 1965 to campaign for voting reform.
The first event descended into violence and became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ after hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police, but the third march was the most successful, with the protesters finally managing to reach their destination.
The stars hope the film will now inspire campaigners to protest peacefully following a number of violent demonstrations in Missouri over the death of teenager Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in August.
Winfrey tells The Hollywood Reporter, “The lesson of the movie is strategy. Strategic planning, rigorous discipline, peaceful protest, and knowing what you want… Then you look out on the streets and some of the same thing is happening today.”
Oyelowo adds, “Thankfully, we’re seeing a lot of the same good sides of protests happening with these protests – i.e. that they are non-violent, and that we are now seeing black and white and everything in between coming together against injustice. I think that the next step for us to be able to really articulate our demands. What is it we want out of this? In Selma, it was voting rights, and now it’s police reform. We needed federal intervention for the verdict situation (in Selma); I would say we need the same thing for the police. Who’s going to police the police? We really need to press to the government that this cannot go on.”
The officer who shot Brown was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury, sparking violent clashes in the local area, while a similar verdict was reached days later in the case of Eric Garner, who died shortly after being apparently placed in a chokehold by a New York cop. Thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest against the rulings in recent weeks.