Washington state sues Motel 6 for sharing guest lists with ICE

Published: Wednesday, January 03, 2018 @ 9:18 PM


James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
(James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images)

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued Motel 6, charging the company with sharing its guest lists with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He says the company violated privacy rights and discriminated against thousands of Washingtonians.

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The motel company voluntarily gave the guest lists to ICE on a routine basis for at least two years, according to Ferguson. Each time Motel 6 released a guest list, it included the name and private information of every guest at the hotel, the lawsuit says.

Personal information released included customers’ driver’s license numbers, room numbers, names, guest identification numbers, dates of birth and license plate numbers, according to the lawsuit.

“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”

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The Attorney General’s Office began investigating the motel chain’s Washington locations in September and alleges that the incidents in Arizona were not isolated.

According to Ferguson, Motel 6 officials admit that at least six of the company's Washington state locations -- in Bellingham, North Everett, South Everett, South Seattle, SeaTac and South Tacoma -- shared personal information of its guests with ICE; this led to the detention of at least six people.

Four of those locations released the personal information of at least 9,151 guests to ICE, even though its privacy policy assured consumers it would protect this information, according to the attorney general.

Ferguson asserts that Motel 6 knew that ICE used the guest lists to target customers based on national origin, including customers with Latino-sounding names. His office says the company trained new employees on the process to give the guest registry and all the names of their guests to ICE.

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"At the South Everett location, for example, ICE agents visited the motels early in the morning or late at night, requested the day’s guest list, circled any Latino-sounding names and returned to their vehicles," a news release on Ferguson's investigation said. "On at least one occasion, ICE later returned to the motel and detained at least one individual. The Attorney General’s investigators discovered that from Feb. 1 to Sept. 14, 2017, the South Everett location gave guests’ private, personal information to ICE on approximately 228 occasions in a 225-day period."

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday claims that Motel 6 committed thousands of violations of the Consumer Protection Act and hundreds of violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

A Washington state Supreme Court case established that guest registry information is private and that random searches of this information violate rights to privacy found in the Washington Constitution.

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In that case, State v. Jorden, the court said, “Information contained in a motel registry constitutes a private affair under article 1, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution because it reveals sensitive, discrete, and private information about the motel’s guest.”

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Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, in labor with royal baby

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 3:51 AM
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 3:51 AM

Third Child Coming for Prince William, Kate Middleton

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton, was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in London and is in the “early stages of labor,” Kensington Palace tweeted Monday.

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Walmart shooting: Man killed in front of bystanders, including kids, outside Arkansas store

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 5:34 AM

File photo of a Walmart sign.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
File photo of a Walmart sign. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A man reportedly was shot and killed Sunday night outside an Arkansas Walmart as bystanders, including kids, looked on.

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According to KAIT, police said the slaying began as a domestic dispute at the front of the store in Trumann about 9:15 p.m. CDT. Police arrived and negotiated with an armed man who walked out of the store with a woman. The man then shot and killed a second man who "tried to intervene," KAIT reported. The armed man eventually surrendered to police and was arrested.

Police did not release the names of the people involved in the incident, but officers said the slain man was likely connected to the woman and armed man.

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Dozens of shoppers were nearby when the man was shot, police said.

"A lot of people witnessed something tonight that they should have never seen," Trumann police Chief Chad Henson told KAIT. "We're going to have to go through a lot of healing from here on out. It was just a terrible day."

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Police use anti-KKK law to arrest people protesting neo-Nazis

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 2:44 AM

Counterprotesters are held by law enforcement officers as the National Socialist Movement holds a rally at Greenville Street Park in downtown Newnan on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The far-right hate group also drew anti-fascist demonstrators as well as hundreds of police officers. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Counterprotesters are held by law enforcement officers as the National Socialist Movement holds a rally at Greenville Street Park in downtown Newnan on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The far-right hate group also drew anti-fascist demonstrators as well as hundreds of police officers. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)(HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

Faced with hundreds of demonstrators rallying against a crowd of neo-Nazis in Newnan, Georgia, authorities turned to a little-known Georgia law adopted in 1951 to combat the Ku Klux Klan.

>> Tension, arrests at neo-Nazi rally in metro Atlanta

The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists.

And the irony was not lost upon the organizers of the counterdemonstration, who were fuming Sunday that a law aimed at weakening white supremacists was used to arrest protesters who opposed a neo-Nazi rally.

“They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Jeremy Ortega, a 19-year-old who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for wearing a mask.

He said many of the demonstrators wore masks to avoid being identified and threatened by white power groups.

“We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off,” said Ortega, who added that he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “It made no sense.”

State and local authorities did not comment on specific allegations of abuse on Sunday. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the overwhelming security – nearly 700 law enforcement officers were on hand – helped prevent the clashes from escalating.

“Making arrests in a volatile situation is never going to be pretty,” Keenan said.

No one from the white supremacist group was arrested on Saturday, and they largely avoided confrontations with police or the counterdemonstration group. The two dozen white supremacists who attended the rally were separated from the group by an 8-foot fence – and hundreds of armed officers.

‘Remove your mask’

On Sunday, a coalition of counterprotest groups planned a vigil at the Coweta County Jail to criticize what they said was excessive violence by police.

The Huffington Post reported that a contingent of officers approached a group of 50 counterdemonstrators before the rally and demanded they remove their masks or face arrests. The news outlet wrote that officers then “grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.”

A video posted on social media by freelance journalist Daniel Shular appeared to show authorities scuffling with counterdemonstrators. Authorities demanded that the counterprotesters remove their masks, and the footage showed an officer raising his rifle at demonstrators.

“Remove your mask, or you will be arrested,” said an officer in the video, which shows a ring of demonstrators standing with their hands raised aloft. Several are chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”

A counterprotester kneels with his hands up in front of law enforcement officers during a neo-Nazi rally at Greenville Street Park in downtown Newnan on Saturday, April 21, 2018. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)(HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who attempted to report on the confrontation during the rally was obstructed by authorities.

Several other counterdemonstrators faced violations that have nothing to do with the anti-mask law.

Daniel Hanley was charged with obstruction of a pedestrian roadway after he said he nonviolently resisted a police officer who confronted him. He said he believes he was arrested because he was wielding a megaphone and leading chants against the white supremacists.

“They were trying to find any pretext to shut us down,” Hanley, 36, said of the authorities. “The moment we stepped foot there, they intimated us and strategically tried to target people.”

‘Absolutely satisfied’

State law bans the wearing of masks, hoods or other devices that conceal a person’s identity if they’re on public property or on private property where the owner has not consented. It includes exceptions for holidays, theatrical productions, civil emergencies and sporting events.

The laws have been adopted by about a dozen states, most aimed at weakening the KKK in the middle of the 20th century. The Georgia Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the state’s ban after a Klansman donned a hood on the Lawrenceville Square, citing his First Amendment rights.

The law has mostly been used to target KKK demonstrations, though it has also been employed before to arrest demonstrators who are objecting to white power groups. At a 2016 rally, the law was used to arrest eight demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain Park.

Barricades and fencing are in place around a city park in Newnan as police prepared for Saturday's rally by a neo-Nazi group on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The neo-Nazis expected a turnout of 50 to 100, but only a couple dozen showed up. They were well outnumbered by counterprotesters and law enforcement officers. (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)(HYOSUB SHIN / AJC)

In a strange turn, it also was invoked ahead of a press conference last year at the Gold Dome, when supporters of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened to hire performers in circus masks to interrupt a rival’s event. The clowns never showed up.

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Authorities said they were intent on enforcing that law and others as they studied how law enforcement officials handled white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 to prepare for the Newnan event.

In Charlottesville, officers remained largely passive as bloody clashes raged around them, and the event soon spiraled out of control. One person was killed and dozens more were injured in the violence.

“You have to have adequate resources and the intent to enforce the law,” Keenan said. “We had both.”

He said officers made clear to both groups that masks and some weapons were not allowed. He said authorities found an abandoned backpack with smoke bombs at one checkpoint. State law allows demonstrators to carry firearms if they are licensed; on Saturday, several were spotted sporting firearms.

“We maintained security. We would not let there be disorder. We didn’t have civil disorder, property damage. And we had just a few arrests,” Keenan said. “We are absolutely satisfied.”

MORE COVERAGE FROM AJC.COM: 

>> Reports from Newnan as the rally and counterprotest were underway

>> How social media reacted

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Where is Travis Reinking? Search continues for Waffle House shooting suspect

Published: Monday, April 23, 2018 @ 1:25 AM

Waffle House Shooting: Who is Travis Reinking

A massive hunt to capture the man wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of four people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, outside Nashville, continues.

>> Watch the news report here

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Travis Reinking, 29, is now on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted List, and law enforcement said he is armed, dangerous and hiding, WHBQ's Greg Coy reports

>> Who is Travis Reinking, the person of interest in the Waffle House shooting?

Police said Reinking returned to his apartment after opening fire at the Waffle House. Reinking, who reportedly was nude at the time of the shooting, put on pants and then ran into the woods, police said.

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Neighbor Johnny Green said another neighbor noticed Reinking and called police. 

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"My mom saw him," Green added. Coy asked, "What did she say about him?" "He just seemed weird," Green replied

>> Read more trending news 

Police said they hope the rain and cooler temperatures will draw Reinking out of hiding. Police said Reinking's options are limited because the crime and social media attention have made him an international fugitive.

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