Written By Mihir Zaveri
When a black man staying in a Doubletree hotel in Portland, Oregon, called his mother from the lobby, he was told by a white security guard that he was trespassing and was escorted out of the building by police.
The December 22 encounter was captured on cellphone video by the man, Jermaine Massey, who posted it that night on Instagram, where it was shared widely. In other videos, Massey, 34, acknowledges that he has become part of the continuing documentation, through cellphone videos and social media, of black people being confronted by white authority figures or bystanders while going about their everyday lives.
“I’m afraid to just do normal things now,” Massey said in an interview Friday, calling the encounter racial profiling. “I’m cautious about what I’m doing, and how people are perceiving that, and I shouldn’t have to think twice about where I take a phone call or what part of the hotel I can visit.”
Paul Peralta, general manager of the Portland Doubletree, said in a statement Friday that “we sincerely apologize to Mr. Massey for his treatment this past weekend, and deeply regret the experience he endured,” adding, “It was unacceptable and contrary to our values, beliefs and how we seek to treat all people who visit our hotel.”
Peralta said the hotel would ask 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 hotel employees involved in the encounter have been placed on leave during the investigation, Peralta said. He did not answer further questions about who specifically would be put on leave.
Doubletree is part of Hilton Worldwide. The Portland Doubletree is independently owned and operated, a Hilton spokeswoman said. She said Hilton had “zero tolerance” for racism and was working with the Portland hotel’s management.
The incident was one of numerous widely publicized confrontations this year in which people have called police on black people for innocuous activities. In October, police were called on a black man who was baby-sitting two white children. A white apartment complex manager in Memphis, Tennessee, was fired after she called police on a black man wearing socks in the pool on the Fourth of July.
Massey, who lives in Kent, Washington, said he checked into the Doubletree hotel on the afternoon of Dec. 22, then went out to dinner and to a Travis Scott concert before returning around 11 p.m.
He saw that he had missed a call from his mother and called her back from his cellphone in a secluded spot in the lobby. After a few minutes of discussing what he described as a private “family matter” with her, a security guard, who is white and has not been publicly identified beyond his name plate, which read “Earl,” walked up to Massey and asked what room he was in, Massey said.
“I said: ‘I don’t know, I’m having a conversation right now. Can you leave me alone right now?’” Massey recalls in the Instagram videos.
The guard then said that Massey was trespassing and that he was going to call police, according to Massey.
At this point, the videos that Massey recorded of the encounter begin, showing the security guard standing over him and telling him that police will arrive soon to escort him off the property. Massey points out that he is a guest at the hotel.
“Not anymore,” the security guard responds.
Another hotel employee — whose position is not clear in the video — walks over and says the guard “wouldn’t ask me to call 911 without any cause.”
The second employee tells Massey to calm down and asks him what the problem is.
Massey then shows the guard and the other employee the envelope containing his room key.
The videos of the encounter end with a Portland Police Bureau officer telling Massey that the security guard is “in control of the property.”
Massey said that he left the hotel after collecting his things from his room so as “not to make a bad situation worse.” The encounter with police was not hostile, said Greg Kafoury, a lawyer for Massey.
Sgt. Chris Burley, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said in a statement Friday that the hotel had the authority to ask Massey to leave and that the police officer had offered to help him get to a new hotel, which Massey declined.
Massey drove himself to a nearby Sheraton.
Kafoury said that Massey was not satisfied with the hotel’s response so far and that it had not publicly specified why he was targeted.
“We’re getting corporate-speak instead of straightforward answers,” he said.
Kafoury said he anticipated that they would file a lawsuit over the encounter.