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Jay Leno dropped by a protest near the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday afternoon to speak out against implementation of the Sultan of Brunei’s new anti-gay penal code — based on Sharia law — that calls for the stoning to death of gays and lesbians, and the public flogging of women who have had abortions. The hotel has ties to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, in collaboration with a series of gay and lesbian groups, staged the rally near the hotel at noon. The organization’s annual Global Women’s Right Awards, set to take place Monday night, was pulled from the hotel and moved to the Hammer Museum in Westwood. The organization had found out about the sultan’s impending penal code just 10 days before the scheduled event and immediately acted to change location.
Amid a crowd of about 80 protestors equipped with signs that read “Feminists are the Majority” and “Stop the Sultan,” Leno — the Global Women’s Rights Awards co-chair — arrived by motorcycle with helmet in hand and wife Mavis, a board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, by his side.
“What year is it, 1814? Come on people, it’s 2014,” he said to the reporters in attendance. “People are being kidnapped and sold and we all just kind of sit around here, going ‘OK.’ You know evil flourishes when good people do nothing.”
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The Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said the reason for the gathering was to spread recognition of the issue. “We want the word to get out, that’s the reason for this,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “We want people to become aware of this outrageous and barbaric penal code, and that it should change. That’s reality.”
Car horns and cheering crowds filled the park just across the street from the hotel as protestors passed around a petition and encouraged all attendees to utilize Twitter to trend the message. One protestor, Mark Curtin, vowed to continue staging rallies until the sultan responded to the issue. Planning for the public protest of February’s pre-Oscar Night Before party is already underway.
“We’re not going away. We’re going to be here for every event and every party,” Curtin firmly stated. “He’s either going to have to sell the hotel or we’re going to be here.”
In response to the rally, three Beverly Hills Hotel representatives were stationed by the outskirts of the park offering refreshments to protestors and handing out paper statements issued by the Dorchester Collection.
“While we recognize people’s concerns, we believe this boycott should not be directed to our hotels and dedicated employees,” Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, said in the statement. “The economic impact of this not only affects our loyal team members, but extends to the local community, our valued partners and suppliers.”
Kathy Spillar, executive vp and event coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation, clarified that the focus of their efforts was not the Beverly Hills Hotel, but more specifically, the sultan himself.
“Let’s face it, the people in the Beverly Hills Hotel are the Clippers,” Leno joked during the press conference. “The Sultan of Brunei is Donald Sterling.”
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The rally was held the same day that THR notified the Beverly Hills Hotel that it would not hold its annual Women in Entertainment breakfast there this year and the Motion Picture & Television Fund revealed it would be relocating its annual Oscars “Night Before” party, of which THR is a sponsor.
They joined a growing boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel and other Dorchester Collection properties, which include the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. On Sunday, Virgin Records mogul Richard Branson tweeted that neither his family nor Virgin employees would stay at Dorchester Collection hotels “until the Sultan abides by basic human rights.” Other groups that have canceled plans to hold events at the hotel include the Independent School Alliance for Minority Affairs, which has moved its May 6 Impact Awards to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The Human Rights Campaign Fund also has urged organizations to move their events to hotels that “aren’t owned by foreign governments and leaders that allow for the execution of its LGBT citizens.”
Celebrities who have lent their voices to the call for a boycott include Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Osbourne and director William Friedkin, while designers Brian Atwood and Peter Som have called for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection’s European properties during the fashion week events that take place abroad. On April 26, a small group protested outside the Beverly Hills Hotel to raise awareness of the issue.
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