Priest-Abuse Survivors: Boycott Polanski

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:48 PM EDT
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Roman Polanski: Success and Scandal

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Roman Polanski has led a life of extreme highs and lows, and it looks like he's on the wrong end of the pattern now.

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The organization that champions victims of predatory  priests will stage a demonstration in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday to announce  a boycott of the work of Roman Polanski and those who support his bid to avoid  extradition to the United States.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, best known as SNAP,  charged that entertainment industry figures speaking out for Polanski since his  arrest in Switzerland Saturday are helping to enable the crimes of current  child predators.

The 76-year-old Polish-French director was arrested by Swiss gendarmes  at Zurich Airport as he flew in to attend the Zurich Film Festival, where he  was to have received a lifetime achievement award.

The arrest  came in response to a warrant issued by U.S. federal  authorities at the request of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's  Office.

In 1977, when Polanski was 44, he lured a 13-year-old girl to actor Jack  Nicholson's home on Mulholland Drive, saying he wanted to take photographs of  her for the French edition of Vogue. He gave her champagne and part of a  Quaalude and forced her to have sex.

After he spent 42 days in a prison hospital ward for a mental  evaluation, a deal was worked out for him to plead guilty and be sentenced to  time served. Polanski pleaded guilty, but, fearing that a judge was going to  reject the deal and send him to prison for 50 years, he fled the country.

U.S. authorities have 60 days to file a formal request for extradition  with Swiss authorities. Polanski's lawyers have vowed to oppose it.

Dozens in the film industry have called for Polanski's immediate  release, including directors Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Woody Allen, Costa- Gavras, Pedro Almodovar, Fatih Akin, Walter Salles and Wong Kar Wai, actress  Debra Winger and producer Harvey Weinstein, founder of Miramax Films and now  head of The Weinstein Co.

"Since his arrest and the announcement that he will be extradited to  the U.S., some entertainment figures have expressed sympathy for him," SNAP  said in a statement on the eve of Wednesday's late morning demonstration outside  the District Attorney's Office.

"These public statements of support ... makes teenagers who are being  victimized now feel intimidated and hopeless, thus staying silent and enabling  their predators to keep hurting them and others."

SNAP said three or four victims of abuse by Catholic priests will take  part in the demonstration, joined by relatives and other members of SNAP, which  describes itself as a self-help organization.

The sign-carrying demonstrators, according to the statement, will "encourage all victims of sex abuse to come forward and report  crimes, despite re-victimization by the Hollywood elite."

Many of Polanski's backers, including French government ministers, have  pointed to the suffering in his life, including his family's persecution by the  Nazis and the slaying of his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and her fetus in the  Manson Family murders.

"While sympathetic to Polanski's painful childhood and his wife's  murder, SNAP feels that's irrelevant, as is is victim's personal decision to  forgive him," the SNAP statement said.

"What matters most, SNAP feels, is that a child predator is kept away  from kids and that criminals learn they can't simply hire smart lawyers, make  themselves popular, flee the country and get off scot-free."

Polanski lawyers Tuesday filed papers with the Swiss Federal Criminal  Court seeking his release, and the court said it would make a decision in the  next few weeks. If it rules against him, he will have the option of asking  Switzerland's highest court, the Federal Tribunal, to overturn the decision.

To date, the support for Polanski appears to have been more widespread  in Europe than in the United States, where at least one entertainment industry  figure has spoken out against him.

"Thirty years have not dimmed my memory of the crime for which this man  was convicted," Paul Petersen, the former "Donna Reed Show" star and now  president of A Minor Consideration, a nonprofit watchdog group for child  performers, said in remarks published in the Daily News Tuesday.

"Hollywood may have forgiven Mr. Polanski," Peterson said. "I have not."
 

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