Innocence of Muslims: Gadfly John Walsh Warned Us of June 30 Hollywood Screening
The locally produced, anti-Muslim film, or rather a YouTube trailer for it, is being blamed for a rash of anti-American violence in the Middle East, including the death of the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans Tuesday.
In his typical, all-caps rants, Walsh emailed this to reporters last night:
THE L.A CITY COUNCIL MEETING VIDEO SHOWS THAT JOHN WALSH FORMALLY REPRESENTING THE ANTI-RACIST WEBSITE HOLLYWOODHIGHLANDS.ORG APPEARED UNDER PUBLIC COMMENT ON A FRIDAY TO WARN THE L.A. CITY COUNCIL OF VIOLENCE IF "INNOCENCE OF MOSLEMS" WAS SHOWN THE NEXT DAY (SATURDAY) AS SCHEDULED AT THE VINE THEATER ON HOLLYWOOD BLVD.OUR WARNING FELL UPON AUDITORY-CHALLENGED EARS AT CITY HALL!
Kevin Scanlon Walsh.
It's not clear what he expected the council to do about it (it's not like City Hall has a direct line to the U.S. State Department, though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was a big backer of Hillary Clinton when she ran for president). But Walsh did, in fact, raise the issue.
The two-hour film was screened twice on Saturday, June 30, at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m., to a total audience of maybe 10 people, a source told the Weekly. The theater's capacity is 600.
The marquee at the circa-1940 Vine Theater in Hollywood said only, "Bin Laden," we were told, which was only part of the film's title at the time, The Innocence of Bin Laden.
The man hosting the film was said to be of Egyptian descent. (A man associated with the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is said to be a Coptic Christian, a religion with an embattled history in Egypt).
An attractive young woman was put on Hollywood Boulevard outside the theater to sell tickets with little success, our source said.
In fact, during the last 20 minutes of one screening, people were invited to view it for free, again with little success, the source said.
About 5,000 fliers were printed to promote the movie, we were told. A phone number listed on the flier leads to a toll line that asks for $3 and an additional .99 per minute.
Meanwhile, during the public comment period the Friday before the screening, Walsh told the council this:
There is an alarming event occurring in Hollywood on Saturday. A group has rented the Vine (Street) Theater to show a video entitled Innocence of Bin Laden. We have no idea what this group is.
Walsh said he worried the film might be anti-Semitic because of the movie poster's Arabic writing. In fact he stated on his site that he believed it was a "pro-Al Qaeda film."
On Walsh's website, he decries the council's ignorance of his warning:
... Appeals and warnings were ignored. Now we ask ourselves why. Why would no one in power listen.
[Added at 12:36 p.m.]: In an email just sent out to reporters, Walsh says he tried to go to one of the screenings that night but was turned away:
HE ANNOUNCED SHOWING WAS SCHEDULED TO START AND ATTEMPTED TO BUY A TICKET TO "INNOCENCE OF BIN LADEN "AND WAS TOLD BY THE ASSISTANT MANAGER IN THE GLASS CAGE THAT THE SHOWING HAD BEEN CANCELLED. MR. WALSH NOTICED THAT THE MARQUEE LIGHTS HAD ALREADY BEEN TURNED OFF.
[Added at 1:20 p.m.]: Walsh returned our call and said he believed the film was not shown at all that night. "It never played the theater," he said. "No one showed up."
He said a poster advertising the flick in Arabic had been up in front of the theater for two weeks.
As far as his warning to the L.A. City Council goes, Walsh told us:
All I said was it's happening here, it's a danger to our community. You should go on record against what they're [the filmmakers are] saying.