'Selma' Stars Use NYC Premiere to Support Peaceful Protests


The release of the biopic Selma -- which chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.'s non-violent campaign of civil disobedience in 1965 -- has been described as "divine timing" by the film's star and producer Oprah Winfrey. On Sunday, that timing took center stage when a number of the film's stars made bold political statements on the red carpet.

At Selma's New York premiere, actor Wendell Pierce – best known for his work on The Wire – wore a shirt with the words "I Can't Breathe" printed across the front, a reference to the strangulation death of Eric Garner by NYPD officers, who were not charged in relation to the incident.

VIDEO: Celebs At Selma Gala Explain Why The Film Will 'Resonate' In Light Of Recent Events

The words have become one of the main chants of protesters who have been demonstrating in the streets for weeks in the wake of the Eric Garner and Ferguson, Mo. grand jury decisions.

"So you're coming with a message tonight?" ET's Nischelle Turner asked Pierce when the actor spoke with her before the premiere.

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"Well, yeah, I mean the film itself is the message," said Pierce, who plays iconic civil rights leader Rev. Hosea Williams in Selma. "We're talking about honoring the people who were on the front lines 50 years ago, and it's an ongoing continuum of that great American act of making sure that we ensure people's rights."

Oprah Winfrey, who plays celebrated civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper, walked the red carpet outside the Ziegfeld Theater, and she too weighed in on Selma's message and impact on the country.

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"This isn't the first time – what we're going through in our country [with] people protesting – it's not the first time and it will not be the last time," Oprah told ET. "With intention, with strategy and with leadership, you can accomplish anything. That's what [Selma's] message is."

Check out the video for more from the stars at of Selma at the New York premiere.

hits theaters
in limited release Dec. 25, and opens wide across the country on Jan. 9, 2015.

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