Oregon lawmaker says daughter was racially profiled by mall security for 'loitering'

The teen and her friends were in their car making plans when a security officer allegedly told them to leave the parking lot because they were loitering.
Image: Chrissy, the 17-year-old daughter of Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum.
Chrissy, the 17-year-old daughter of Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum.Courtesy of Rep. Janelle Bynum

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A black Oregon lawmaker said her daughter was the victim of racial profiling when a mall security guard asked her and her friends to leave a parking lot because they were "loitering."

Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum wrote on Facebook on Saturday that her 17-year-old daughter, Chrissy, and her friends were sitting in a car in the Clackamas Town Center parking lot in the Portland area trying to figure out what to do with their evening when a "mall cop parked and walked up to them and said they were sitting too long and loitering."

"They didn’t even know what the word meant. But they knew they had been profiled. And for what???" Bynum wrote. Chrissy and her friends were in the parking lot looking up alternative Saturday night plans on their phones because one of the girls had forgotten her license, and the group was turned away from an R-rated movie, Bynum added.

Chrissy, the 17-year-old daughter of Oregon state Rep. Janelle Bynum.Courtesy of Rep. Janelle Bynum

The Democratic lawmaker, who is the only black member of the Oregon House, is calling for a "loiter-in" at the mall this week.

"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," Bynum wrote on Facebook. "Let's figure out if there's a difference between loitering or being the wrong color."

Bynum said she reviewed Clackamas Town Center rules and did not find any specifying a time limit for sitting in the parking lot.

The general manager of Clackamas Town Center, Dennis Curtis, said in a statement that 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 said.

"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.

Oregon State Representative Janelle Bynum.via Facebook

Bynum said a mall manager, who left her a message, seemed to be "gathering information" about the incident."

"This is what people don't understand about discrimination. You can be vigilant about criminal activity while disproportionately and illegally targeting certain people based on race. It's called collateral damage," Bynum said.

Bynum made national headlines last year when a woman called the police on her as she was knocking on doors, campaigning for re-election. A responding deputy told Bynum that the woman called authorities because she thought Bynum was casing the neighborhood and looked "suspicious."

Dozens of incidents of people calling police or threatening to call police on black people who were just going about their business have inspired the viral hashtag #LivingWhileBlack.

Bynum sponsored a bill to crack down on such calls. The bill, which was signed into law in August, allows victims of racially motivated 911 calls to sue the caller for up to $250.