Napa wine tour accused of racism after kicking out group of black women ‘laughing too loudly’

A group of black women from a book club were kicked off a wine tour in Napa at the weekend – sparking accusations of racism on the company’s part.

One of the women, Lisa Johnson, said it was ‘humiliating’ when she and her friends were escorted off the Napa Valley Wine Train by a police officer.

The company said the women had been spoken to several times by the train manager after complaints from other customers that they were laughing and talking too loudly.

But one passenger who witnessed the incident later claimed that it was clearly racially motivated.

The Napa Valley Wine Train offers a ‘three-hour journey through world famous vineyards: wine tours, wine tasting & great dining’.

The women – who all wore matching T-shirts with their book club’s slogan, ‘Sistahs on the Reading Edge’ – departed on the train on Saturday shortly before noon.

They admit that they were laughing and talking with one another as they enjoyed their wine.

At one point, a fellow passenger told the ladies – including an 83-year-old grandmother – ‘this isn’t a bar’, while a manager said they needed to quiet down.

Johnson said no one was ‘intoxicated’ but that a few of the ladies were ‘rambunctious’ at times, which most passengers did not seem to mind as they chatted with the women and snapped photos.

After the manager spoke to the women a second time, some of them became silent said Johnson, and were confused as to why they were being singled out.

The manager then said to them that ‘this isn’t going to work’ and had them get off in front of all the other passengers at the next stop.

Officers from both the Napa Valley Railroad and St. Helena police departments stood by to escort them off the train.

‘People were looking at us,’ said Johnson. ‘To get escorted into the hands of waiting police officers. That’s the humiliating part.’

‘I’m really offended to be quite honest,’ she said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

‘I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.’

The Napa Valley Wine Train wrote in a Facebook post soon after: ‘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 has since been deleted and the women have all been given a full refund for the trip which start at $124, though Johnson also wants a public apology.

Spokeswoman Kira Devitt said in a statement; ‘The Napa Valley Wine Train does not enjoy removing guests from our trains, but takes these things very seriously in order to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all of our guests.’

Johnson found the entire experience ‘bizarre’, adding; ‘The train is set up to be with your friends, to drink wine and have a good time.’

After witnessing the incident, a fellow passenger named Danielle called out the company in a review on Yelp.

‘Definitely not an organization I would recommend or ever support again. I watched in disbelief as staff harassed a group of people who were merely drinking wine and laughing,’ she wrote.

‘I’d like to think it wasn’t a racially motivated act, but given the fact that other, non-black guests were behaving in the same way and not removed, I can only conclude that it was discrimination.

‘This business belongs in the “what is wrong with our country” category. Steer clear if you would like to be part of the solution, rather than the problem of white supremacy and racism.’

Devitt said the company is now ‘conducting an internal audit to make sure all of our policies were followed and options were offered’.

Source: The DailyMail

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