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Marriott Cancels Prison Protest Concert

Sodexho-Marriot is a huge transnational corporation mainly consisting of hotel and food service operations. Marriott Dining Services, a subsidiary of Sodhexo- Marriott, operates the American University Tavern on the Washington D.C. campus of AU.

On February 15, 2000, a hip-hop concert was booked at the Tavern by AU Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). The show, "No More Prisons," was scheduled to coincide with many other events held around the country to protest the U.S. prison and jail population reaching two million, which had been estimated to occur on or about that date.

But a few minutes before the show was supposed to begin, AU SSDP vice president Dave Epstein announced from the stage that the management staff of the Tavern would not allow the show to happen.

Earlier that day AU and George Washington University's chapters of SSDP held an anti-drug war vigil in front of the U.S. Capitol. At the Tavern, several representatives from both AU's and GW's SSDP, as well as the Drug Reform Coordination Network, were distributing pamphlets outlining the increased cost of imprisonment and the decrease in spending on education.

"We had a hip-hop show planned," Epstein told a packed house from the stage of the Tavern, "But Marriott Dining Services, a company that invests highly in private prisons, has determined that the show is not going to happen."

Epstein was referring to Sodexho's 11 percent shareholding in the Corrections Corporation of America, the worlds largest private imprisonment firm. He said the cancellation "smacks of conspiracy."

Sodhexo-Marriott representatives said there was no bias against the concert's anti-prison theme that influenced their decision to stop the show. Rather, the paperwork necessary to hold the concert had not been filed on time.

The concert was quickly relocated to SSDP President Kate Sander's house; cars and volunteer drivers were rounded up to transport the audience and the artists and the show went on.

Was this a simple paperwork snafu, as Marriott officials claimed, or a blatant example of corporate repression of political speech?

"Obviously SSDP has no knowledge of any conspiracy by Sodhexo-Marriott against us," GW SSDP president Kristy Gomes said. "In order to uncover a conspiracy would take years of legal fighting... but it raises a lot of questions."

Source: The Eagle American U-Wire

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