LGBTQ Activist on Beverly Hills Hotel Boycott: "This Is the Moral Challenge in Front of Us" (Guest Column)
Activist James Duke Mason argues in favor of renewing the Hollywood-backed boycott on the day Sharia law goes into effect in the country of Brunei, led by the Sultan who owns the storied hotel.
I’ve written several articles over the last few years on this topic, so I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. For context, however, I’ll start with a quick recap: I started getting involved with the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as all Dorchester Collection properties, as soon as the news regarding the Sultan’s plans to implement Sharia law in Brunei became known in April of 2014. I was present at the first protest with Jay and Mavis Leno, which was organized by various women’s rights and LGBTQ organizations.
After that first protest, we organized several more, the most recent of which took place in October 2016. I was proud to lead that event outside the Beverly Hills Hotel along with UNITE HERE!, the hotel and hospitality workers union. Soon after, however, the election took place in November, and I, like a lot of activists, became distracted by the challenges posed by the Trump administration. Unfortunately, in the absence of consistent pressure and media coverage, attention was diverted from the boycott to many of the other political struggles of the last several years.
It seems the Sultan and his PR team took the story fading away in the press as an opportunity to disseminate “fake news” about the boycott having “fizzled." Based on the spin, you’d think that all of Hollywood had gone back. The truth, however, is that only a few celebrities and events have returned. The main proponents who supported the boycott from the beginning have stayed strong, and the major events and Oscar parties that left in 2014 have never returned.
Now, however, we hear the news that the Sultan is finally implementing his heinous plan to torture and murder LGBTQ people beginning today, April 3. He clearly seems to think that things have quieted down and so he can now proceed with his evil, barbaric plans. I’m heartened to see that there has been a significant amount of media coverage in the last several days, including the op-ed from George Clooney.
Hopefully this will send the message to the Sultan that if he thinks he can get away with this without a significant cost, he’s wrong. This horrific injustice cannot stand and it’s up to us to prove it. We can make a real difference by boycotting the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air and all Dorchester properties. I hope celebrities who’ve recently patronized the hotel, such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus who regularly tout their support of LGBTQ rights, will do so as well.
I’ve heard the argument over the years that boycotting won’t make a difference or that no one has been killed yet. Does that mean you’ll finally stop going once someone is tortured and executed? There is no reasonable argument or excuse.
This is our moment. This is the moral challenge in front of us. And I hope we will rise to the occasion.
Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
The Dorchester, London
45 Park Lane, London
Coworth Park, U.K.
Le Meurice, Paris
Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
Hotel Eden, Rome
Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan