NAACP Amtrak


Amtrak employee asked a NAACP lawyer to move from her train seat

She was asked to move without justification over the MLK weekend.


Sierra Juarez


Posted on Jan 19, 2020   Updated on May 19, 2021, 5:28 pm CDT

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said she was asked to give up her seat on an Amtrak train over the weekend.

Ifill tweeted about the incident right after an Amtrak employee asked her to move seats–without giving a justification. Ifill wrote that she refused to leave her spot.

“I’m being asked to leave my seat on train 80 which I just boarded in D.C.,” she tweeted at Amtrak. “There are no assigned seats on this train. The conductor has asked me to leave my seat because she has ‘other people coming who she wants to give this seat.’ Can you please explain?”

Ifill continued to live tweet the incident, explaining that she spoke to the lead conductor who could not offer a reason as to why the assistant asked her to move. She added that she was the only person asked to change seats.

“I laid out the facts and made clear that I know that it is absolutely contrary to policy and unacceptable to pick one passenger from an unassigned seat and demand she move,” Ifill wrote.

Twitter users were enraged by the situation and noted that it was especially upsetting because it took place over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

“Shades of similarities from civil rights history are quite fitting here that it doesn’t even need mentioning to know what this reminds you of,” Twitter user Amro Ali wrote, making a reference to when Rosa Parks famously refused to move from her bus seat in 1955.

The situation escalated from there. Nearly a whole day went by without a response from Amtrak. Ifill called out the company again on Twitter the next morning.

“You are doing this all wrong, I can assure you,” she wrote about Amtrak not immediately and publicly issuing an apology.

When the company finally responded, it was to tell Ifill that employees had reached out to her “numerous times” and “have been unable to connect.” However, the official Amtrak account never responded to her original tweet, nor did it reach out to her via email, which she uses every week to get her train ticket sent to her.

After more social media uproar over how Amtrak was handling the situation, the company issued a public apology.

“We apologize again for what happened on the train last night and understand that both this and our slow response are upsetting,” Amtrak tweeted. “As of today, we’re changing our policy about how we respond on social media to ensure we’re faster and more transparent.”

Ifill then released a statement of her own. In it, she thanked Twitter users for their support.

“I am colossally disappointed in Amtrak for both this incident and the way it was handled,” Ifill wrote. “Keep fighting and honor MLK this weekend. It’s about our individual dignity, the strength of our communities, and the integrity of our democracy.”


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*First Published: Jan 19, 2020, 7:54 pm CST