A group of black women, traveling on the Napa Valley Wine Train and expelled for their boisterous behavior, claims that they were “humiliated.”
The women assert that they were the victims of racism; one member of the book club, Sisters on the Reading Edge, Lisa Johnson, said, “It was humiliating. I’m really offended to be quite honest. I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle.
Although the train company has issued a refund, the women are demanding a public apology for the incident on Saturday. On Sunday. Napa Valley Wine Train spokeswoman Kira Devitt explained that the train company “received complaints from several parties in the same car and after three attempts from staff, requesting that the group keep the noise to an acceptable level, they were removed from the train and offered transportation back to the station in Napa.”
The women’s group travels once a year on the train as it traverses the wine country of northern California from Napa to St. Helena. Johnson documented the incident on Facebook as it occurred.
Johnson admitted her group may have been “rambunctious,” but insisted that they were not “obnoxious or intoxicated.” After a manager on the train asked them to quiet down, Johnson said the group was thinking, “Who are we offending?” She recalled that the manager informed the group “this isn’t going to work,” and they had to “tone it down” or they would be asked to leave the train. She said one woman sharing the car with the group told them, “This isn’t a bar.” Johnson said, “And we thought, um, yes it is.”
Johnson stated that when the women exited the train at the St. Helena station, they had to do the “walk of shame,” passing passengers on other cars. Police from the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments met the group at the station. Johnson said, “People were looking at us. To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.”
Chief Jeff Hullquist of the Napa Valley Railroad Police Department pointed out that no police action was taken, adding, “When someone is removed from a train, they have to be dropped off at a station, and our policy is if someone is let off the train we’ll stand by. We keep them safe until someone can get them.”
Devitt noted that the train removes rowdy passengers roughly once a month.
Johnson did admit that the train company treated them well aside from their expulsion, giving them free pictures and sending a van to transport them. She said, “The people in the station were absolutely wonderful.”
But the group’s ire was triggered when a company employee posted the incident on Facebook. The employee wrote, “Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved. Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our other guests, we do intervene.”
The post was quickly deleted; but it was too late. Johnson said she “wants a public apology for the humiliations they caused to us as professional women.”
A new Twitter hashtag, Laughing While Black, was launched as a result of the incident.