Shocking Racism and Assault Scandal At Marriott Renaissance Center

A private security force originally founded by General Motors has apparently run roughshod over African Americans at the corporate Renaissance Center headquarters, including Marriott guest Demarko Brown, according to a lawsuit.

Brown, who was staying at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, explains that he was so severely beaten that he received a brain injury. Allegations against the Renaissance Center’s security date back at least a dozen years.

  • An African American woman was “illegally held…in a cell in the basement of the Renaissance Center, detaining her so long that she urinated on herself”

  • The security company’s own senior use-of-force instructor reports that a white officer, and head of the security officers union, “passed around a photo of the decapitated head of a black man, laughing and making racist jokes about it.”

  • In 2017, “Detroit rapper Obie Trice III said he was maced, handcuffed, beaten and dragged through the Marriott inside the RenCen to a small room where water was poured over his nose and mouth, choking him.” He sued and the company settled.

  • A mentally ill older black woman reported being struck in the face, beaten, and hospitalized for a month after seeking to bring a bicycle inside the building.

In all more than two dozen incidents of white officers harassing or abusing African Americans are cited.

“Black hotel guests and visitors to the RenCen are in extreme danger and risk for their lives,” Safran wrote in Barnes’ lawsuit.

Oddly the security officers are seeking qualified immunity as state actors. That’s because the company is licensed by the State of Michigan as a private policy agency, can carry weapons, and can also make misdemeanor arrests. According to their own use of force trainer, the company routinely deletes security footage to cover up its own criminal activity. In addition to the officers, Marriott is being sued as well.

The Marriott guest initiating the lawsuit reports that he was a guest at the property in October 2020 for his birthday. White security officers wouldn’t let him re-enter the property without a mask. While the lawsuit claims Marriott had no mask mandate in place at the time, my memory suggests that a mandate was indeed in effect for public areas starting in mid-2020 and lasting into spring 2021 (for vaccinated guests).

  • Video shows the guest being jumped by officers in front of the Marriott. His head was “slammed against the concrete” while a supervisor watched. There’s no indication he had refused to comply with officers engaging in force against him.

  • He was handcuffed and held in a cell for five hours “where he urinated on himself.” He never received care for his head injuries.

According to another officer who had left to get the guest a mask, the assaulting officers “falsified the arrest report.”

“I believe these officers used excessive force as this incident could have been diffused simply by handing him a mask and asking him to wear it,” the officer testified in the affidavit.

“The Caucasian officers then tried to have me write the report of this incident but I refused as there was no evidence that any use of force was warranted in this case. (An officer) then wrote and falsified the arrest report, concealing the unwarranted use of excessive force.”

Recalling that Marriott was silent about use of a Ritz-Carlton in Saudi Arabia as a torture and murder site by that country’s government, and that the property still flies a Marriott flag, it doesn’t surprise me little appears to have been done by the Bethesda-based chain to protect its African American guests.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The Renaissance Center property is owned by General Motors but, importantly, MANAGED by Marriott.

  2. After some of the other media-led tales we’ve had with alleged racist behavior like described here, I’d like to know the WHOLE story. Did these guys really just pick out random Black guests to beat and torture? Or is there more to it? Because we’ve learned that even a clip of video can be misleading. Like the Kenosha cop incident that was supposedly “racist”, made a convenient excuse for scumbags to burn a city, and which were investigated by politically hostile (to police) politicians and found to be without merit. Stuff like that makes me cynical about stories like these.

    This is not to excuse the actions described (if that’s what really went down and is not exaggerated), but I have a feeling that there is another side to this. Likely that both sets of parties did wrong.

  3. Might be difficult to litigate against Marriott. Yes, they manage the hotel but that likely does not include the RenCen security contract since the Marriott is a relatively small part of the building.

    Best bet to attach to security firm and the principal who signed the security contract on the RenCen’s behalf. If it’s Marriott then yes, they are party to the action. BUT I’d bet it’s not and instead is the building management.

    And Gary, seems like you would be more hesitant to throw Marriott under the bus by accusing it of not caring for its African American guests without knowing the answers to the above questions. The part about the RC in SA has ZERO bearing on their behavior towards these guests, as well, for the same reasons.

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