A man who was visiting Portland for the first time to see a Travis Scott concert last December is now suing the Hilton hotel chain in Multnomah County Circuit Court for deeming him a security threat and kicking him out of the Doubletree Hotel even though he was a paying guest.
The lawsuit alleges that actions taken by hotel staff—a manager and a security guard at the DoubleTree Hotel in the Lloyd District—discriminated against Massey because of his race. Jermaine Massey is a 35-year old African American man who was visiting from Seattle. 
The lawsuit says that Massey was speaking to his mother on his cell phone in a corner of the hotel lobby when the hotel manager called security on him. After security peppered him with questions about his status as a guest, they deemed him a security threat and called the Portland police. Two police officers escorted Massey to his room, had him pack up his belongings, and escorted him out of the hotel.
According to the lawsuit, the police officers told him he would be arrested for trespassing if he didn’t comply with their orders and exit the hotel.

Last year, WW obtained the 911 call between hotel staff and a dispatcher where the staff member characterizes Massey's communication with the security guard as "arguing." The caller describes Massey as an "African American male, wearing all black, he's got his cell phone out recording us."

The transcript of the 911 call corroborates the lawsuit's account.

While Massey was being removed from the hotel, he documented the experience by video on his phone and shared it via Instagram. The videos gained national attention.

Jason Kafoury, who is one of the lawyers representing Massey for the Portland law firm of Kafoury & McDougal, says that Massey felt “humiliated” when two police officers flanking him on either side “marched him out in front of the entire crowded lobby even though he was a paying guest.”

Kafoury says the video's circulation resulted in dozens of other people of color reaching out to the firm and sharing similar stories of racial discrimination by hotel staff across the country. Kafoury is representing three other plaintiffs who have decided to file suit.

"Dozens of people reached out to the law firm," says Kafoury. "They were all African American and all singled out in lobbies by security in Hilton hotels when there were other white patrons around."

Kafoury alleges that pattern isn't an accident.

“I think they had a policy which allowed security to walk up to anyone in the lobby whether they were guests of the hotel and prove whether they were guests. When you have a blanket policy like that, it will lead to discriminatory behavior,” says Kafoury. “Because there’s racist people in our country, sad to say.”

The law firm is asking that the hotel chain produce all similar complaints of racial discrimination and elucidate any security policies that may give employees the ability to question guests.

Hilton spokesman Nigel Glennie tells WW that  Hilton isn’t responsible for what took place, because it took place at one of their franchise properties that’s controlled by a management company: “The responsibility for this lies with the management company.”

Glennie tells WW that Hilton creates the "standards" for its various franchise locations—one of those being the hotel Massey stayed at—but is not responsible for formulating policies or implementing those policies. That, Glennie says, is left up to the company that manages the franchise, meaning there could be vast differences in policies formed at franchise locations.

“The actual procedures and policies that are implemented at that property are the responsibility of that management company,” Glennie says. “We do not dictate policies, we dictate standards.”

According to the Portland DoubleTree staff where Massey stayed, the local management company that oversees the franchise and is responsible for policy implementation, the Westmont Hospitality Group, is putting together comment regarding the lawsuit today.

The DoubleTree staff declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Glennie tells WW that all of Hilton staff and franchise staff underwent an accelerated diversity and unconscious bias training as a result of the December incident.

Though he declined to comment on the specific litigation, Glennie did say that “I would think that the ability to walk up and ask a person in the lobby if they are a guest of the hotel, is perfectly reasonable.”

Following the encounter last winter, Kafoury’s law firm questioned the hotel about why they deemed Massey a threat, and what policy allowed them to escort him out. DoubleTree Portland posted three times on Facebook in the following days apologizing for the incident: in the first response, they stated that security of their guests was their first priority and called the events “unfortunate.” In the second post, they announced they would be conducting an internal investigation into the events. In the third post, they announced the manager and security guard involved had been fired.
Massey is seeking $3 million in emotional damages and the suit is seeking $7 million in punitive damages against Hilton. Kafoury says he hopes the lawsuit will deter other companies from allowing potentially discriminatory policies to exist.
“Mr. Massey grew up in Baltimore and lives in Seattle. He had never faced anything racist—even remotely close—to how humiliating this was in his life,” says Kafoury. “It’s changed the way that he views the world. Every time that he goes into a public accommodation, he’s always wondering if people are judging him by the color of his skin now.”