Black guest kicked out of Portland hotel plans to file racial discrimination lawsuit
UPDATE: The DoubleTree Hotel said Saturday that it's fired the two employees involved with this incident.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) – Attorney Greg Kafoury told KATU he plans to sue the DoubleTree Hotel in Northeast Portland over a racially-charged incident that his client, Jermaine Massey, caught on video last Saturday.
"The actions of the hotel manager and the hotel security guard are routine racism," Kafoury explained Friday.
He said the hotel's staff discriminated against Massey, an African-American man visiting Portland for the first time from Kent, Washington.
Kafoury also said Massey, 34, worked in law enforcement.
"Mr. Massey has done undercover work for the federal Department of Justice," Kafoury told a KATU reporter. "He was a human resources man at the FBI."
A spokeswoman for Portland's FBI office said due to the partial government shutdown she could neither confirm nor deny that claim.
The hotel, meanwhile, apologized to Massey over how he was treated and said it's working to prevent similar incidents. But Kafoury said the business needs to do more.
Videos of the incident that Massey posted on Instagram and Twitter almost immediately went viral.
"I'm staying here. I have a hotel," Massey tells Earl Meyers, a security guard at the DoubleTree, in one of the videos he shot in the hotel's lobby. "I didn't do anything to you. I'm sitting over here taking a phone call and you interrupted my phone."
Massey said the video clips show Meyers and other staff members ordering him to leave.
"I was racially profiled and treated unfairly," Massey explains in one of the videos.
He was a paid guest at the DoubleTree at the time and said he was in the lobby at around 11 p.m. Saturday talking on the phone with his mother. He said he'd just come back from a concert at the Moda Center.
"Seems like almost as soon as I sat down, the security guy, white, older male approached me while I was on the phone and interrupted me and said, you know, 'Are you staying here?'" Massey says.
In a police report, a Portland officer says Meyers told him, "(Massey) instantly accused Meyers of being a racist and only asking him because he was black. ... Meyers said (Massey) refused to give a room number and he told (Massey) if he couldn't provide a room number he would have to ask him to leave the property."
Kafoury said that's not true and told a KATU reporter Massey showed Meyers his key.
"We anticipate filing a lawsuit against Hilton DoubleTree and requiring them to answer the question they've so far refused to answer, which is, why was this guy approached in a hotel lobby when he's doing nothing more than talking to his mother on the phone? Why was he interrogated? Why was he ordered to leave on pain of going to jail?" said Kafoury.
Officers escorted Massey to his room at the hotel so he could collect his belongings. They then escorted him off the property telling him he could later file a complaint with the hotel's management. No one was arrested.
"He checked into the hotel in the afternoon. He went to dinner," Kafoury explained. "He went to the concert, came back, returned a call from his mother back east. And look how he got treated."
Paul Peralta, the general manager of the DoubleTree Hotel, sent KATU two statements regarding the incident this week.
The latest one, sent Thursday, says:
"We sincerely apologize to Mr. Massey for his treatment this past weekend, and deeply regret the experience he endured. It was unacceptable and contrary to our values, beliefs and how we seek to treat all people who visit our hotel.
We have a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination of any kind, and do not tolerate behavior of that nature. We are seeking the counsel of community leaders, and will engage a third-party to conduct a full investigation into the incident – reviewing our internal processes, protocols and trainings to ensure we are creating and maintaining a safe space for everyone. The employees involved have since been placed on leave for the duration of this investigation, and we will take the appropriate measures to ensure this does not happen again."
On Monday, Peralta sent KATU the following statement:
"Safety and security of our guests and associates is our top priority at the DoubleTree by Hilton Portland. This unfortunate incident is likely the result of a misunderstanding between our hotel and guest. We are sorry that this matter ended the way it did. We are place of public accommodation and do not discriminate against any individuals or groups. We have reached out to the guest in order to resolve this matter."