Shanako M. Devoll and her partner Kate Neal say a Broadway Cab driver ditched them on the side of a Portland freeway around midnight Thursday because of their sexual orientation.
Devoll said she was showing affection to Neal when the cab driver started making inappropriate comments.
“I was holding her hand and we kissed a couple of times in the back seat, minding our own business,” Devoll said. “He made homophobic remarks that were very hurtful to us. We did not want to be in his cab.”
But the couple asked to be let off at a safe spot, Devoll said.
“This was an unsafe situation. We told him ‘we can’t get out on the freeway. We’re not getting out on the freeway,’ ” she recalled. “If people are working in customer service they need to be able to accept people for who they are.”
Neal said the driver was yelling homophobic remarks at them, and they offered to pay the fare of just under $40 if he’d just let them out at a safe spot, off an exit ramp of the freeway. But Neal said he refused.
“When this happened, you’re in shock and you’re not believing that it’s happening,” Devoll said. “There is no reasoning. You just need to get out of the situation.”
They ended up out of the cab, on the side of eastbound Interstate 84, just before 102nd Avenue.
Neal said their driver had radioed to another Broadway Cab driver, and a second cab pulled up alongside the freeway where they were let out. The second driver told the three on the side of the freeway to get into his cab, and they did, Neal said.
There was some communication between the first driver and the second outside of the cab, and suddenly the second cab driver told the group in his back seat to get out, according to Devoll and Neal.
“That second cab driver came back and ejected us from his cab,” Neal said.
So Devoll, Neal and another friend who was with them climbed an embankment and she said flagged down a Portland police officer. The officer informed them that he had been dispatched to find them after someone had called to report passengers had skipped out on a Broadway cab fare.
The officer, according to Devoll and Neal, called the cab company and arranged for them not to have to pay the cab fare, and then drove the couple and their friend home.
It was East Precinct Officer Timothy Mast, a 14-year bureau veteran, police said.
“He did a great thing,” Neal said of Mast.
Broadway Cab has suspended the original driver’s authority to operate a cab as a full investigation begins into what occurred, according to Raye Miles, president of Broadway Cab.
Miles said the City of Portland also is conducting its own independent inquiry.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say that Broadway Cab is fully committed to the concept and practice of non-discrimination, equal opportunity and diversity,” Miles said, in a statement posted on the company’s Facebook page. “We take allegations of discrimination very seriously.”
Neal, 28, said she’s experienced discrimination before, but never has been put in such a scary situation.
“People say hurtful and hateful comments when they don’t know or understand, but putting our lives in danger for something like that to me is unacceptable,” said Neal. “We just wanted to get a safe cab ride home. I certainly will never be calling Broadway Cab again.”
Ryan Hashagen, a pedicab representative on the city’s Private for Hire Transportation Board of Review, said Devoll’s and Neal’s complaint follows similar concerns raised last week before the board. Hashagen said the board earlier in the week had received public testimony regarding other allegations of discrimination within the industry against the LGBT community.
So Hashagen said was enraged when he learned of the experiences of Devoll, an acquaintance he knows through the Rose City Roller Derby, from comments she left on her Facebook page.
“This is not the type of community we want to live in,” Hashagen said Saturday.
Devoll, 33, said she believes the cab driver should be held accountable. She and her partner have obtained a lawyer, they said.
Their attorney, Nicholas Yanchar, said Saturday that his clients are evaluating all their legal options and expect to make a decision on how they plan to proceed in the next few days.
“Something like this is not right. It’s inappropriate for a business like this to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,” he said.
Neal is a local rap singer who fronts a band. Devoll is a graduate student at Portland State University and has done social work for the last 10 years with marginalized populations, including people with mental illness and disabilities.
“I’m a social worker in the community and I’m all about ending oppression,” she said. “I’m wondering how many other people are experiencing discrimination. It makes me sad that we live in a society like this.”