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Protesters angry at News Corp. push for Rupert Murdoch ouster

October 21, 2011 | 12:03 pm

Protest2This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details

As News Corp.'s annual shareholders meeting got underway Friday, about 125 vocal activists gathered in front of 20th Century Fox studio, calling for the resignation of Rupert Murdoch and railing against the media giant's mishandling of the phone hacking scandal.

The protest was marked by some of the same messages that have become the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but the overarching theme that emerged was that there were crooks in power and it was time to make a change.

"We are here on the general premise that what News Corp. and Wall Street are doing are very related," said 22-year-old Blaine O'Neill, who has been camping with Occupy L.A.

"Money speaks louder than anything else, and the message that gets out is dominated by corporate interests and not much else," O'Neill said.

"My mom raised us well," added his 16-year-old sister, Ellie. "So since birth I've known not to trust the 1% who report news on the 99%."

Occupy L.A., which organized buses to ship its members from their encampment at City Hall to the Century City studio, was joined by other activist groups, including Avaaz.org, MoveOn and Common Cause, carrying signs with such slogans as, "Gotta beat back the Fox attack," "This is what democracy looks like," and "We are the 99%."

Key organizer Brianna Cayo-Cotter from Avaaz, who came down from San Francisco for the protest and was wearing a black "Fire the Murdoch Mafia" T-shirt, explained the goal of the morning: "The Murdochs have turned News Corp. into a global criminal enterprise," she said.

"And with the shareholders meeting, people from around the world are calling on them to be fired. They have been irresponsible in running one of the most powerful media companies in the world and that's dangerous for democracy and the public good."

As she spoke, protesters circled with signs reading, "I am not your ATM," "Rich Media = Poor Democracy," "People B4 profit," and "Fox and Friends Stink." Another protester -- the only one sporting a smart business suit -- waved at passing traffic wearing a giant papier-mâché Rupert Murdoch head with a distinctly Nixon-esque nose.

Protest1Getting the Murdochs to step down is admittedly a Herculean effort, said Avaaz's Cayo-Cotter. Avaaz said members from around the world have been calling News Corp. shareholders leading up to Friday's meeting to express their displeasure with the company's direction in the wake of both the News of the World phone hacking scandal and recent allegations that the European edition of the Wall Street Journal used questionable tactics to boost circulation figures.

"Corporate irresponsibility and bad governance have run amok," she said, "and what happened in the UK is just the tip of the iceberg."

Standing nearby, Anjuli Kronheim from Common Cause nodded in agreement and added, "We're here to ask News Corp. to stop spending in the next election cycle."

The latter was a sentiment shared by a number of liberal protesters who dislike the power they perceive the predominantly conservative company has over politicians and politics.

"I'm here because I dislike the Republicans and I dislike Rupert Murdoch," said Pearl Karon, an older woman with neat white hair. "And apathy is our worst enemy -- and their best weapon."

Despite the fiery rhetoric, the protest remained peaceful and contained, with most of the group leaving around 10:30 a.m. on a bus.

"We'll be back! We'll be back!" they chanted as they headed toward the luxurious green turf of Rancho Park Golf Course.

-- Jessica Gelt

[For the record, 1:29 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Rancho Park Golf Course as Rancho Mirage Park.]

RELATED:

Sparks fly at News Corp. annual meeting

News Corp.'s Murdoch beset by doubts and angry investors

Parliament's Tom Watson says Murdoch is at his "Rosebud moment"

Photos, from top: A mask-wearing protester outside of the 20th Century Fox lot during News Corp.'s annual meeting; Dave Saldana, communications director of the organization Free Press, during the protest. Credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times

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