PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A local law firm is filing several lawsuits against stores in the Portland metro area for allegedly targeting Black customers based on the color of their skin.
The “shopping while black” suits were announced this week. One of the alleged victims says he was prohibited from buying gas by a white gas station attendant and caught the discrimination on video.
Dominique DeWeese says in the lawsuit filed Wednesday that he asked the attendant at Jay’s Garage in Portland in July for a gallon of gas in a container. DeWeese says the attendant declined and claims that he implied he did not want to give DeWeese an opportunity to set fires.
DeWeese told KOIN 6 News he was trying to get gas for his lawnmower and to deal with mole holes — which he explained to the station attendant. But DeWeese said the man wouldn’t listen.
“I live a couple blocks from there — I go there all the time and he denied me service, asked if I was a Black lives protester, rioter,” DeWeese said. “I said ‘no, I’m just here to get gas.'”
DeWeese is the director of volunteer recruitment for the Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program. He’s filed a $350,000 racial discrimination lawsuit against the station and hopes legal action will bring about more accountability.
“Just because of what’s going on in politics, people think that you’re allowed to be this way now, you’re allowed to say whatever you want, behave however you want but that’s not the case,” DeWeese said. “People are going to have to be held accountable.”
Miles DeWhitt, the owner of Jay’s Garage, shared the following statement with KOIN 6 News:
“Once we were made aware of the situation that occurred on July 28, we terminated the employee that same day. Refusing service to customers is against our company policy.”
DeWeese’s attorney, Jason Kafoury, said four lawsuits involving Black people who were refused service have been filed.
“Our law firm has been doing civil rights cases for decades,” he said. “We’ve never seen this number of people, literally and blatantly discriminated against just for being Black.”
One of the other lawsuits involves Rose Wakefield. She claims an attendant at a Jacksons store in Beaverton wouldn’t fuel up her car. After some effort, she said she was able to get help from a clerk in the store. But as she was leaving, Wakefield said she confronted the attendant who refused to help her and he told her, “I don’t serve Blacks.”
Russ Stoddard, a spokesperson for Jacksons, told KOIN 6 News, “We at Jacksons in no shape or form condone racism or prejudice in any way. We haven’t yet seen the legal complaint on this specific incident. Once we do, we will review it and respond appropriately when we better understand the facts of the case.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.