A casting agency in the UK offered actors $25 to take part in an “anti-Qatar event” outside a meeting between the ruler of the Gulf peninsula country and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
According to several emails screenshotted and uploaded to Reddit, Twitter and Facebook; extras were offered $25 (£20) to take part in the supposed protest from 11:00 until 12:30 GMT on Tuesday, as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was due to meet May in central London.
“This is NOT a film or TV production,” casting agency Extra People said in an email to their actors.
“The company are looking for a large group of people to fill space outside Downing Street during the visit of the president of Quatar (sic). This is an ANTI-Qatar event – You will not have to do or say anything, they just want to fill space. You will be finished at 12:30.”
As soon as we as a company became aware that it was a political demonstration, we immediately withdrew wanting no further part in this
— James O'Malley (@Psythor) July 23, 2018
However at 20:22 GMT on Monday, shortly after media reports first began to circulate about the job offer, Extra People sent another mass email saying “on reflection” it would not be involved “in such a project”.
Extra People has gotten cold feet and pulled out it seems. pic.twitter.com/17aXdSlVdu
— jon.porter (@JonPorty) July 23, 2018
The British company later explained that it was contacted by a PR agency company called ‘Neptune PR Ltd’ asking for 500 people to stand outside Downing Street.
It said a junior booker subsequently made the arrangement without consulting management and it had now “withdrawn” its involvement.
“As soon as we as a company became aware that it was a political demonstration, we immediately withdrew wanting no further part in this,” Tom Walker, the company director of Extra People, told Al Jazeera.
“We have never or will never supply artistes for any event that could be deemed racist or xenophobic and regret that we have even been caught up in this.”
Tuesday’s planned protest came just hours after a similar rally was held against the Qatari emir in London. However, Twitter user Sayed Alkadiri claimed that some of those participating in Monday’s demonstration were also being paid.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify Alkadiri’s claims.
Today I came across possibly the most embarrassing protest – speaking to demonstrators I was informed that they had been bused-in from Birmingham and paid £50 for their day's service..#OpposeQatarVisit #ProtestQatarEmir pic.twitter.com/0zjID0DY9w
— Sayed Alkadiri (@sayedalkadiri) July 23, 2018
The Qatari emir’s visit to the UK comes more than a year after the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, imposed a land, air and sea blockade against Qatar and severed ties with it, in one of the Gulf’s worst diplomatic dispute in decades.
The quartet have expressed their displeasure over Qatar’s foreign policy, and urged the country to “change its direction”.
According to several media reports, the four countries want Qatar to normalise relations with Israel, and develop a regional alliance against Iran.
Qatar’s emir has denounced all attempts to infringe on the sovereignty of the Gulf nation and rejected all of their demands.