Activists Stay the Course Against Trade Deal

Activists opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal currently being negotiated by the U.S. and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, gathered in a park across the street from the Beverly Hills Hotel Wednesday to call on Congress to stop the fast-track of the deal.

While the TPP has been criticized for many reasons, the coalition of labor, environment, LGBT, women’s rights and other groups that rallied Wednesday is particularly opposed to the inclusion of Brunei in the trade deal because the country last year began implementing a draconian, Taliban-like penal code that sentences gay men, lesbians and women who commit adultery to death by stoning. The group rallied across from the iconic hotel because it is a part of the Sultan of Brunei-owned Dorchester Collection of hotels.

Groups have been protesting Brunei’s place at the trade negotiation table—and its penal code—since last year. The Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.) was among the first to pull an event from the hotel in 2014. The “Night Before” the Oscars gala was also later moved to another venue, along with other events.

Below, read some of the powerful words from speakers at Wednesday’s rally. Then sign a petition condemning Brunei’s penal code and asking Congress not to enter the TPP.

“When our LGBT community is being stoned to death, it doesn’t matter if that’s not happening in our backyard. When our [local businesses and our dollars] are supporting that behavior, we’re supporting it, we’re responsible. That’s why we’re gathered here today—to say, “No more!” We cannot stand with [the Sultan of Brunei’s hotels]. … Last night, [the City of West Hollywood] passed a resolution to formally oppose the fast-tracking of TPP.”

— Lindsey Horvath, coordinator at 1 Billion Rising

“Since this boycott began, I continue to hear people say, ‘You can’t fight every murderous dictator in the world, why this one?’ I hear them say, ‘What about all the other countries with a horrible LGBT or women’s rights record? Why Brunei?’ In fact, if I had $10 for every time I heard these arguments I’d buy the damn hotels myself!”

— Dave Garcia, director of policy and community building for the Los Angeles LGBT Center

“As far as I know everyone [in Hollywood who vowed to boycott the Sultan’s hotels] has stayed the course. … I think people are flummoxed, and you can’t really think of anything you can do. Actions like this give you something [you can do].”

— Mavis Leno (right), Feminist Majority Foundation board member and wife of fellow anti-TPP activist Jay Leno, with FMF organizers

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade deal that would give privileged trading status to Brunei and 10 other countries in the Pacific rim. … It’s a bad deal, but fast-tracking TPP makes it even worse. … Fast track means our elected representatives could not make this bad deal better.”

— Ada Briceño, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here Local 11

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Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.