A Wellington train manager has received the admiration of thousands of Kiwis as a hero for booting off the train a racist passenger who hurled racial slurs at a fellow passenger speaking in the Hindi language on the phone.
The train running from Wellington to Lower Hutt just around 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 8, had just started when a passenger on the train heard racial slurs being hurled at a fellow passenger.
The witness who chose to remain anonymous told Radio New Zealand that a young girl, about 16, started yelling racial slurs at a fellow passenger who was speaking on his cellphone in Hindi.
“The girl said 'go back to your country, don't speak that language here',” the witness told Checkpoint on RNZ.
The witness said that the girl was confronted by the conductor of the train who literally stopped the train on the tracks and asked the girl to get off.
The girl said she was getting off at the next station to which the conductor denied her stay in the train as she will not tolerate her racial slurs and if she does not get off the train, she will have to deal with the police.
The witness then added that the conductor called the police, but the passenger then agreed to get off the train. The passengers waited for around 20 minutes as this incident unfolded.
"We were just in awe that she had the courage to say 'this isn't on and I'm not going to put up with it, no matter who you are and whether you're a paying customer or not - you can get off the train and find your own way home,’” the witness told RNZ.
Train Manager JJ Phillips said she was alerted by a passenger in the train of the incident.
"Just as I was walking through getting the tickets, one passenger raised a concern with me, so I went to where this particular passenger was.
"She was a teenage girl, and she was hurling abuse at some passengers, and the passengers who were receiving the abuse, I called them out, and I asked them what had happened.”
Ms. Phillips said that she took the girl and another passenger who intervened outside the train and asked what had happened.
She was told that the Indian man (passenger) was minding his own business and was talking over the cellphone in his own language. It appeared that the girl had an issue with the man talking in his language and started throwing racial slurs on him asking him 'to go back to his own country'.
The conductor said she wasn't having any of that on her train.
"We don't put up with language like that, of any kind. We carry passengers to and from A to B, and we want our passengers to get there in a safe manner."
Ms. Phillips said she tried to speak to the girl, but her behavior did not change that prompted her to decide that she would longer be carried in her train.
When she refused to leave, Ms. Phillips told her she was calling the cops, and the girl shrugged and said "fine".
"When it comes to something like this, not at all. After what we've been through, in March, there's still tender feelings out there."
"All I could do was just apologise to the other passengers."
"We are here as one people in this country; we should all share things equally. We're all living in this country for a purpose, treat every person with the same respect that you'd like to be treated with - with total respect, no matter what race you are," she told RNZ.
Ever since the news hit the media, the train conductor has received the admiration of thousands of New Zealanders and people from overseas who praised her courage for standing up against this act of racism.
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester applauds public response to 'train racist incident'
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and Human Rights Commission praised the response and action by train conductor JJ Phillips for standing up and against racism.
Mayor Justin Lester received an angry email from a local Wellington resident about immigrants who also referenced the Wellington train incident and wrote in justification of the Christchurch mosque attack.
Mayor Justin Lester publicly condemned the letter and called out racism in New Zealand.
"I received the below from a local resident I know well, which makes it even more disappointing.
"Strangely, the individual themselves is an immigrant. They came from an Anglo-Saxon country to live here in NZ, which is great.
"Their rant isn't about immigration. This is racism," Mayor Lester tweeted.