KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – The Chattanooga Marriott at the Convention Center denied admission to two paying guests, including a pastor, because they were black and allegedly looked like drug dealers, the men claim in Federal Court.
James Horton and Ezra Maize were in town for a church revival in South Pittsburg, Tenn., where Maize was the guest speaker. The men allegedly returned to the hotel in the early morning, after attending the late-night revival and grabbing a bite to eat.
“Prior to attempting to enter the hotel,” the lawsuit says, “the Plaintiffs observed several other persons, all White, who were admitted to the hotel without being stopped by the hotel security guard.
“The Plaintiffs were asked by the security guard, a white male … to show their room keys prior to being admitted to the hotel, stating that it was the hotel policy to ask to see room keys after 11 p.m. before admitting anyone into the hotel.”
But the plaintiffs say a night manager contradicted the guard’s claim.
Horton and Maize refused to show their keys and were denied admission, the lawsuit claims.
When they asked the security guard why he was harassing them, he allegedly replied, “because you look like drug dealers, and there are a lot of drug dealers roaming around in this area this time of night.”
The plaintiffs were eventually admitted for the night, but they say the security guard’s actions constituted racial profiling.
They demand $1.75 million in actual and punitive damages from the hotel and Walden Security, also called Metropolitan Security Services.
The plaintiffs are represented by David Dupree.