MAHNOMEN, Minn. — A northwest Minnesota claims he was kicked off an Amtrak train because he is black, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.
Xavier Edison, an African American from Mahnomen County, alleged in court documents filed Wednesday, Feb. 26, that Amtrak violated his civil rights when a conductor, identified in the lawsuit as “John Doe,” demanded Edison exit a train that was headed to the Twin Cities on May 29, 2019. He accused the conductor of making “abusive and discriminatory comments."
“Defendants exercised absolute power over Mr. Edison while aboard the train and abused that power to further (the conductor's) discriminatory intentions, which makes their conduct extreme and outrageous and beyond all bounds of decency,” the lawsuit said in accusing Amtrak of making Edison look like a “loathsome terrorist to other passengers."
Edison boarded the train at Detroit Lakes with plans to travel to the Twin Cities to see his child, according to the lawsuit. He attempted to move to another seat because a person who smelled of alcohol sat next to him, a civil complaint said.
“The conductor who had apparently directed the (other) passenger to that seat loudly and abusively yelled at Mr. Edison to return to his seat or else he was going to kick him off the train,” the lawsuit said.
The complaint said white passengers were allowed to sit where they wanted, and tickets do not have assigned seats. The conductor did not state what offense Edison committed that warranted being kicked off the train, and Edison said he did not address the conductor harshly, according to the lawsuit.
Court documents do not detail what alleged comments the conductor made to Edison that were abusive.
When the conductor overheard Edison calling 911 to report the confrontation, the Amtrak employee ordered Edison to exit the train immediately at the next stop, the lawsuit alleged.
Armed Amtrak police escorted Edison off the train, the suit said.
“As he (Edison) was taken off the train, Mr. Doe was standing in the doorway glaring at Mr. Edison with a smirk on his face and laughing as the train sped off,” the lawsuit claimed.
Court documents said the conductor gave Edison a different name than was given to police. The complaint also claims Amtrak was aware of racial discrimination complaints against the conductor but didn’t take disciplinary action against the employee.
Edison was able to board another train, and the conductor on that line said he could sit anywhere, court documents said. He said he suffered humiliation, emotional and mental distress and financial loss and wants at least $300,000 in damages.
Amtrak did not return a voicemail left by The Forum, nor has it filed a response to Edison’s lawsuit.
Edison’s attorney, Karen Bryan of Minneapolis, declined to comment on the case since it is ongoing, but she said Rosa Parks refused to “sit at the back of the bus so this would not happen in 2019 and 2020.”