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In an exclusive televised interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC's "All In," director Quentin Tarantino said he was "surprised" by the backlash against comments he made at an anti-police-brutality protest last month. "They want me to shut up," he added.
During an appearance at a New York City rally organized by RiseUpOctober, the "Django Unchained" filmmaker said, "I'm a human being with a conscience. If you believe there's murder going on, then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I'm here to say I'm on the side of the murdered." His remarks led to intense criticism in conservative media and calls for boycotts from police unions nationwide.
"I was under the impression I was an American and that I had First Amendment rights, and there was no problem with me going to an anti-police-brutality protest and speaking my mind," Tarantino told Hayes. "Just because I was at an anti-police-brutality protest doesn't mean I'm anti-police."
Tarantino said there was one clear message that the activists were united behind: "Stop shooting unarmed people." But the Oscar winner believes his critics would rather "start arguments with celebrities" than deal with the concerns of everyday citizens.
The director says he was invited by RiseUpOctober to attend a three-day event after recent statements he'd made showed solidarity with their anti-police-violence message and concern about what Tarantino described as "white supremacy in this country."
"There's a lot of statistics going around about how many unarmed people have been killed by the police, but we want them to stop being numbers. We want them to stop being statistics and start being people who were once living and breathing and are now dead," Tarantino said.
Critics of Tarantino's actions have brought up the fact that an New York police officer, Randolph Holder, had been shot and killed in the line of duty less than a week before the protest took place.
"The timing was very unfortunate, and his death, that officer's death, is a tragedy, and I acknowledge that 100 percent, and my heart goes out to him and goes out to his loved ones," Tarantino told Hayes, but he reiterated that this was not the "point" of the protest and that the families of shooting victims involved couldn't reschedule just because it wouldn't be "convenient."
Meanwhile, the attacks on Tarantino have extended to the floor of Congress, where Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas claimed on Wednesday that the filmmaker had "called for violence against law enforcement" and that his remarks at the protest were "idiotic."
"That's their way. They're being inflammatory. They're slandering me. I'm not a cop hater," Tarantino said in response on "All In."
"Anybody who acknowledges that there's a problem in law enforcement in this country right now is considered by law enforcement to be part of the problem — whether that be me, whether that be [New York Mayor] Bill de Blasio, or whether that be President Barack Obama," he added.
Although Tarantino has never been very publicly politically active, he did recently declare Obama "hands down" his favorite president of his lifetime.
He has also spoken out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, telling New York Magazine: "I love the fact that people are talking and dealing with the institutional racism that has existed in this country and been ignored. I feel like it's another '60s moment, where the people themselves had to expose how ugly they were before things could change. I'm hopeful that that's happening now."
His latest film, a Western called "The Hateful Eight," is due in theaters on Christmas Day. Tarantino says his producers probably consider the controversy a "pain in the butt," but they also released the Oscar Grant film "Fruitvale Station" and therefore "stand behind" him.
While Tarantino hasn't been in personal contact with police officers since the protest story has gained traction, he said, "I actually have a whole lot of police officers who are big fans of my work."
"They'll make up their minds, and we'll see what happens," he added.