About a dozen members of the radical feminist group Code Pink protested Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s meeting on Monday at Hollywood talent agency WME.
Prince Salman’s visit to WME’s Beverly Hills offices was part of his swing through the U.S., visiting Washington, D.C., last week, as he met with studio bosses to sell his plan to build a new entertainment industry in the Kingdom.
Protesters held signs that read “war criminal” and “stop bombing Yemen.”
“This is a man who does not allow freedom for women,” said CodePink co-founder Jodie Evans. “He’s a dictator, and he’s bombing Yemen. There is nothing charming about this prince.”
#HappeningNow A dozen of protesters from @codepink are outside @WME building in Beverly Hills. The group is protesting the visit of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They say he’s “No Prince Charming” More @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/xrduDNbrs6
— Armando Aparicio (@armandapari) April 2, 2018
After the Kingdom lifted its 35-year-old religious-based ban on movie theaters, the Saudis announced plans to create an entertainment industry from scratch. Prince Salman has set meetings with studio bosses such as Rupert Murdoch, Bob Iger, and Kevin Tsujihara, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
As part of his U.S. tour, the Saudi reformer will attend a dinner party hosted by Rupert Murdoch. Concurrent with the visit, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture initiative at the Linwood Dunn Theater is hosting “Saudi Art Days.” The event will feature Saudi films, industry panels, and a photography exhibit.
Sources say bin Salman has set aside $400 million to spur development of an entertainment industry. With the announcement of the end to the cinema ban and the new interest in creating a new outlet for music, films, and TV, several U.S. cinema chains announced an interest to open new movie houses in the Kingdom.
Prince Salman met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday to discuss investment in Los Angeles.
The crown prince has presided over a series of reforms, including reforms for women. Prince Salman ended the decades-long ban on women entering the workplace and driving in public along with a series of other reforms to give women greater freedoms.
But despite his reforms and the open arms Prince Salman is receiving in Hollywood, some left-wing groups are preparing to protest his visit to La La Land. Militant feminist group Code Pink, for instance, has announced that it will protest the prince outside WME’s Beverly Hills office at 11 a.m.
In a statement, Code Pink co-founder Jodie Evans said:
“Mohammed bin Salman employs an army of lobbyists and PR firms to sell himself as a reformer when he is really a war criminal and a power-hungry thug whose ego rivals that of Donald Trump. It is absurd that the U.S. is in bed with this ‘prince’ who mercilessly bombs Yemen, shakes down Saudi businessmen, captured the Lebanese prime minister, concocted a rift with Qatar and even kidnapped his own mother. The Saudi monarchy also jails and beheads dissidents, discriminates against the Shia minority, and forces women to live under a repressive male guardianship system. It is not a regime the United States should be arming and abetting.”
In a March 20 blog post, co-founder Medea Benjamin added that bin Salman is a “brutal bully” who has starved and bombed the Yemenis. Benjamin also scoffed at bin Salman’s reforms for women.
Yes, it is true that MbS is making some positive reforms. Women will soon be able to drive, and the morality police are not as repressive. Movie theatres [sic] are opening, and more cultural events are allowed (although they must all pass government muster and most are gender-segregated). But these reforms are minor in the larger picture of a kingdom that brooks no dissent internally and is committing war crimes abroad. According to Human Rights Watch, “Mohammed bin Salman’s well-funded image as a reformist falls flat in the face of Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe and scores of activists and political dissidents languishing in Saudi prisons on spurious charges. Baby steps on women’s rights reforms don’t paper over Saudi Arabia’s systemic abuses.”
“So don’t be fooled,” Benjamin added. “Beneath the veneer of reform is a young man who believes that his bloodline gives him the right to become the next absolute monarch in a family that has ruled the nation with an iron fist since its founding in 1932.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.