One of the largest anti-Muslim grassroots hate groups in the United States, Act for America, is hosting its annual conference on Oct. 2–3 in Arlington, Virginia, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. ACTCON2017 strives to be a massive gathering of people from across the country to strategize how to fight the “leftist Islamic coalition,” which is “waging war against the rule of law,” according to the group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel.
The group Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization, sent Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson, a letter on Sept. 11 urging his company to cancel the hotel’s commitment to host ACTCON2017. As the letter points out, Marriott states on its website that “diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our core values and strategic business goals,” which, one would think, might include not hosting a group that works to advance hate speech and anti-Muslim legislation.
Watch the full ACTCON promotional video:
Act for America said in a statement to Slate that Muslim Advocates are unfairly portraying the group as racist, noting that there will be a Palestinian, a Jewish person, and other underrepresented minorities speaking at the conference.
Act for America was behind the more than 20 anti-Muslim protests, dubbed “March Against Sharia,” held across the country during Ramadan this year, where participants, some of whom were armed, marched down streets and in front of mosques with the aim of opposing Islamic law and the presence of Muslims in the United States. The Facebook pages for March Against Sharia were likewise statured with calls for violence toward, and even murdering, Muslims.
But, as a spokesperson from Marriott confirmed for Slate, the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington will not be canceling its hosting. “We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space,” said the spokesperson. “Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual.”
Marriott’s decision to host ACTCON is particularly curious given the company’s 2010 decision to cancel its hosting of American Renaissance, a white nationalist conference. Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, previously noted that President Trump’s travel ban focusing on six Muslim-majority countries was broadly perceived as “a big deal” in the Middle East and that “the symbolism is wrong.”
Marriott recently started a new ad campaign called “Golden Rule,” which appears to promote a theme of treating every person with equality and dignity. One of the advertisements, for example, starts with images of strangers helping each other and the line: “It would be great if human beings were great at being human and if all of mankind were made up of kind women and kind men.”
This decision from Marriott comes after Airbnb decided last month to boot off its platform several white supremacists and neo-Nazis who booked nights at homes in Charlottesville, Virginia, for after-parties following the Unite the Right rally. After Airbnb stopped working with the organizers of the Unite the Right rally, which was largely being organized on the alt-right website the Daily Stormer, other online businesses decided to stop doing business with the the Daily Stormer as well, on account of the rampant hate speech hosted there, which violates many web companies’ terms of service. GoDaddy, Cloudflare, and Google all stopped worked with the Daily Stormer.* Later, numerous other web companies, like Spotify, PayPal, and OkCupid, all made efforts to remove accounts of individuals or groups that forward hate speech, too. These decisions give Marriott plenty of social and political cover if it would decide to stop providing a forum for Act for America. But Marriott isn’t using it.
*Correction, Sept. 21, 2017, at 5:15 p.m.: This article originally misspelled Cloudflare’s name.