Sherrilyn Ifill asked to give up seat ahead of MLK Day

She is the esteemed president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 02: NAACP LDF president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill on stage during the LDF 31th National Equal Justice Awards Dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 2, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.)

For reasons still unknown, an Amtrak conductor tried to make Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, give up her seat, just days ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Worse yet, when Ifill demanded answers from Amtrak via Twitter after failing to get any from the conductors on the northbound train from Washington Friday night, train officials did not reply, that is, until long after public outcry became too great.

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Ifill narrated her story on Twitter, according to the New York Daily News, which began with her being asked by a conductor to give up her seat because there were “other people coming who she wants to give this seat.”

The train was general admission and was not full, Ifill noted, yet the conductor steadfastly refused to allow her to stay in her seat.

“I did wonder when she was carrying on – how far will I take this? And the immediate answer in my mind was “all the way,” Ifill wrote.

The next stop was Baltimore, her destination, and she was still asked to leave her seat. When Ifill got off, she spoke to another conductor at the station, tweeting Amtrak’s main account the whole time. The conductor in Baltimore said he had “no explanation” for the decision and apologized.

Meanwhile, followers noticed that Amtrak’s account was steadily replying to other travelers throughout and never replying to Ifill.

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Ifill finally heard from an Amtrak official by phone, and via Twitter, on Saturday, and tweeted that the official was “respectful, forthright and apologetic.” However, she added, the situation warranted “a prompt, public response” which she clearly did not get.

Amtrak’s main Twitter account posted an apology Saturday afternoon, which Ifill posted.

The apology and response also came long after Ifill pointed out that she not only was a member of their highest-tier rewards plan, but a passenger on the 2015 train that derailed near Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring more than 200, according to PBS. She tweeted that she was “colossally disappointed in Amtrak for both this incident & the way it was handled.”

By later Saturday, Ifill had resumed tweeting about upcoming events for the Martin Luther King holiday and other topics of interest and illumination. But the unwelcome reminder of past disrespect to Black women in public transportation likely had left a bad taste in her mouth, and in those of the people following her ordeal online.