LOS ANGELES — Transgender Netflix employees and their allies gathered Wednesday morning on Vine Street in Los Angeles to protest the streaming giant’s decision to release Dave Chappelle’s controversial new comedy special. Some of the comedian’s supporters showed up too.

Chappelle fans, with signs featuring phrases such as “Jokes are funny” and “Dave is funny,” squared off with walkout participants with posters that read “Support, uplift, protect trans voices” and “Gender is NOT a fact. Educate yourself.”

Rallying cries such as “What do we want? Accountability! When do we want it? Now!” largely drowned out chants from those defending Netflix and Chappelle.

In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s walkout, a cascade of backlash, protests within Netflix, suspensions and defensive statements from the company have erupted in response to Chappelle’s “The Closer,” which features the comedian’s transphobic remarks and other insensitive commentary.

Demonstrators began arriving outside the Netflix office on Vine around 10 a.m. Wednesday and chanted, “Trans lives matter.” Counterprotesters toted signs advocating for “free speech” and bearing anti-trans rhetoric.

“I’m here to support the Black trans people who Dave Chappelle has belittled and erased,” said protester Lily Weaver, a 34-year-old union attorney from Koreatown. “I’m here to support the Black, pregnant employee that Netflix fired for standing up to them. It is absolutely disgraceful that Netflix is profiting off of transphobia.


“I think that [Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos] has really embarrassed himself by dismissing his employees,” Weaver added. “The company has embarrassed itself by retaliating against workers who spoke out. And I would encourage Mr. Sarandos to listen to the people who work for him.”

“We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that’s been caused,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. “We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content.”

A list of walkout demands reviewed last week by the Los Angeles Times asks the company to set aside a fund supporting trans and nonbinary talent and to attach a disclaimer to “The Closer” saying it “contains transphobic language, misogyny, homophobia, and hate speech,” among other requests.

“We will be addressing the list of firm asks … then we’ll talk about how we plan to execute that,” said rally organizer Ashlee Marie Preston. “The conversation that we’re having today, more than anything, is about the emergence of what I’m calling a ‘hate economy,’ and it is the capitalization of harm and violence that exists online and onscreen … and the ways in which algorithmic science is being manipulated to take advantage of those moments and to profit from it.”

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