The Writers Guild, West, is considering bringing a lawsuit to protect its First Amendment rights. And I think every Hollywood guild member should boycott this hell-hole of a shopping mall that houses the Oscars. That’s because a group of WGAW staffers were subjected to “citizen’s arrest” Thursday morning at the Hollywood & Highland complex. At about 9:00 A.M. Thursday, Hollywood & Highland Center security guards abruptly surrounded, detained, and handcuffed WGAW guild organizers Laura Watson (see photo left) and Terence Long, and Assistant Executive Director Jeff Hermanson (see photo below). So what were the activists doing to get themselves hauled off? Simply passing out leaflets during American Idol‘s week of Hollywood auditions there and informing the public that “FremantleMedia refuses to treat its writers fairly”.
The WGAW insists they did not interfere with or obstruct the shopping mall’s operations or the activities of FremantleMedia. But the guild members were turned over to the LAPD, and later released after posting bond. Writers Guild General Counsel Tony Segall said the guild was considering legal action against the operators of the Hollywood & Highland Center for false arrest. The California Supreme Court has held that the state constitution guarantees the right of expression of ideas in shopping malls on the grounds that they’re the contemporary equivalent of the town square. The WGAW notes that other labor unions and community groups have held public actions such as leafleting and picketing inside the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex without incident. (Photo below of leafleting at the mall)
Thursday’s protest was part of the WGA’s ongoing campaign of rallies, briefings, and a nationwide tour to bring attention to what the guild claims are “the substandard industry practices” of American Idol producer FremantleMedia. The American Idol Truth Tour shadowed AI auditions this past summer in several major U.S. cities — including San Francisco, New York, Phoenix, and San Juan, Puerto Rico — to demand that FremantleMedia provide its writers and other workers with industry standard pay and benefits. But yesterday was the first time American Idol Truth Tour participants had been arrested. “We will continue to exercise our First Amendment rights despite the heavy-handed treatment we received,” said the WGAW’s Hermanson. “The public has a right to know that the top-rated show on television does not provide their writers with basic necessities like health care.”