Oregon Lawmaker Claims Daughter was Racially Profiled in Mall Parking Lot

A Black lawmaker from Oregon said her daughter was racially profiled when a mall security guard asked her and her friends, who were sitting in their car, to leave the parking lot because they were “loitering.”

Oregon House Representative Janelle Bynum wrote on Facebook on September 21 that her 17-year-old daughter, Chrissy, and her friends were racially profiled while sitting in a car at the Clackamas Town Center in Portland, Oregon. Bynum’s daughter and her friends were denied entry at the movie theater because one of her friends reportedly did not have a license to prove that she was of age to watch an R-rated movie, so they went back to the car when a mall security guard approached them.

“They had been rejected at the movie theater because one friend didn’t have a license to prove her age so they walked back to the car and were on their phones trying to find something else to do. They were in the car when a mall cop parked and walked up to them and said they were sitting too long and loitering,” Bynum wrote on Facebook. “They didn’t even know what the word meant. But they knew they had been profiled. And for what???”

Two days later, Bynum said she received a response from the general manager of the Clackamas Town Center.

“Something felt very cold about his message. It is as if he is ’gathering information’ from his team to referee the truth with my daughter, when in fact, there will be multiple truths. This is what people don't understand about discrimination,” Bynum wrote on Facebook. “You can be vigilant about criminal activity while disproportionately and illegally targeting certain people based on race. It's called collateral damage.”

In response to the incident, the Democratic lawmaker who is the only Black member of the Oregon House of Representatives, called for a “loiter-in” from September 25 to September 28.

“Go see how long it takes to be asked to leave the mall by mall security. Sit in the food court, sit in your car on the phone, sit on the benches. Report your experience here. My daughter, Chrissy, was accused of loitering too long at Clackamas Town Center on Friday. She and her friends were sitting [in] her car on their phones trying to find something else to do after the movie plans fell through,” the event page on Facebook read.

“She believes she was racially profiled by a mall cop. Let's figure out if there's a difference between loitering or being the wrong color,” the description continued.

In a statement to NBC News, the general manager of Clackamas Town Center, Dennis Curtis, said mall management’s "highest priority is the safety and well-being of our guests, retailers and everyone who visits our property.”

"Our policies, applicable in this case, are designed with that priority in mind," Curtis told the news station. "We respect the privacy of our guests and have reached out to Representative Bynum to discuss the encounter. We are committed to ensuring that our center is inclusive and that it welcomes all members of our community," he said.

In July 2018, Bynum made headlines after someone called the police on her while she was canvassing door-to-door for her re-election campaign, The New York Times previously reported. The woman had called 911 on the Democratic lawmaker because she looked “suspicious.”

“I don’t know if race had anything do with her call — she didn’t say that — but race had everything to do with my reaction, and my fear of not being treated well, my fear of maybe being misunderstood,” Bynum previously told the publication. “I was, of course, in disbelief.”

In June, a bill passed through Oregon’s state Senate that would crack down on racially motivated 911 calls. The bill, known as HB 3216, was sponsored by Bynum and would allow victims to sue callers for $250 if the victim of the call can “prove the caller had racist intent, and that the caller summoned a police officer to purposefully discriminate or damage a person’s reputation,” the Statesman Journal previously reported.

“When someone gets the police called on them for just existing in public, it sends a message that you don’t belong here,” Bynum previously said, according to NBC News.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.