Seated in the lobby of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Portland last December, Jermaine Massey was approached by hotel security. He had been on his cellphone, speaking to his mother at 11 p.m., in a quiet corner of the area.
“Portland police will be here in a minute,” a guard said to Massey, a black guest.
“Why are they coming?” Massey asked. He explained he was staying at the hotel.
“Not anymore,” the guard responded.
Claiming that Massey was “loitering” and that his presence was a threat to other guests’ safety, the guard had the police escort Massey to his room and gather his belongings, and then lead him off the property.
On Tuesday, Massey filed a lawsuit against the Oregon hotel, the security guard and the guard’s on-duty manager, alleging that he was falsely arrested and racially discriminated against last year by the two men, both of whom have since been fired. The lawsuit seeks $3 million for pain and suffering and gives notice that he intends to sue for an additional $7 million in punitive damages.
“We hope to find out what have they done to change anything in the last 10 months,” said Portland attorney Jason Kafoury, who is representing Massey, according to NBC News. “And we’re also going to use this case to set an example so that other hotels and the Hilton don’t treat anybody else like this.”
Since the incident, the president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP attempted to work on discrimination issues with DoubleTree and with Hilton, Kafoury wrote in a statement Wednesday. DoubleTree adopted some of the organization’s suggestions, but Hilton Hotels “completely rebuffed” its attempts to discuss national policy with the the company.
“Mr. Massey hopes to learn what policies of Hilton have led to these events, what Hilton has done in response to such events, and will ask the jury to punish Hilton as an example to other hotels who may be tempted to encourage or tolerate discrimination at their places of business,” Kafoury wrote.
Massey, who has worked for the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI, shared a video of the Dec. 22 incident on Instagram at the time. The post garnered national attention.
“He said that I was a safety threat to the other guests and that I was trespassing and that I was a disturbance because I took a personal phone call from my mom in a more remote area of the lobby,” Massey wrote on the social platform.
Massey is seen showing the manager and security guard a ticket containing his room number that he received after checking in. He had been dealing with a family emergency, Massey says in the video.
“I will be seeking justice,” he wrote. “Believe that.”
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