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September 23, 2016

Philly woman: Megabus allows man hurling slurs at her to board her bus

Video shows man saying 'Jews' are his problem

A Philadelphia woman claims a Megabus driver did nothing to prevent a man hurling anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs at her from boarding the same bus she was taking back home.

In a series of recent Facebook posts, Kate Oelmann said the incident that occurred Sept. 8 on her trip from New York City to Philly made her fear for her well-being, while Megabus says it took proper precautions to ensure her safety.

Oelmann said in a post to Megabus' Facebook page that she had been walking to the bus line's stop at 34th Street in New York with her friend at around 11 p.m. when a stranger began "aggressively harassing" her, calling the woman a "kike" and "faggot."

Oelmann then began recording the encounter. In the video she posted, a man is seen pointing at the camera and asking why a "Jew" is filming him. At one point, when asked what his problem is, he responds, "Jews is my problem."

She told PhillyVoice on Friday that the harassment came out of nowhere. It started with a remark about her pine cone tattoo and escalated from there.

"We were just trying to avoid him, and he kept yelling to try and get a response," she said. 

Oelmann and her friend walked to the bus stop, and when they arrived they were dismayed to find him in line for the bus. The man continued to harass her and her friend when they got to the stop, she said, 

Oelmann brought the issue to the attention of Megabus workers there, she said, but they did nothing despite her being "clearly shaken and upset."

"Your bus driver, instead of seeing this as a threat, told my friend and I that we were ridiculous for being bothered by this man," Oelmann wrote on Facebook. "When we tried to explain that we had video proof, he talked over us, that it was absurd to 'let these insults bother us, and to CALM DOWN before we got on HIS BUS.'"

Once it was clear how shaken up she was, Oelmann said the driver told her he would refuse to allow the man on the bus. After she was on the upper level of the bus, however, the driver allowed the man to board and sit on the lower level, Oelmann claimed.

Sean Hughes, director of corporate affairs for Megabus, said the company is aware of the incident.

Olemann called Megabus, and an employee told her to  call 911 if she felt threatened. The driver "did not witness any contact" between the two, according to a statement from Hughes. Oelmann claimed she showed the video of the harassment to the driver.

"As a precaution seated the passengers on separate decks of the bus to make sure they were separated," Hughes said. "The bus left New York City for the destination of Philadelphia and the trip was uneventful."

According to Megabus policy, a person may be barred from boarding a bus if it is "necessary for the safety" of other customers, including "persons whose conduct is disorderly, offensive, abusive, illegal or violent."

Megabus also said it received an email complaint from Oelmann on Sept. 12 and responded on Sept. 19. 

But Oelmann said she didn't receive a response until Sept. 22, and a complaint response from a Megabus customer service representative sent to her and forwarded to PhillyVoice is dated Sept. 22. 

The response apologizes to Oelmann and says the driver contacted his supervisor, who told him to seat them on separate levels of the bus. 

"It was also stated that you were informed that if the harassment continued while on the bus he would step in and alert authorities," the response said. "There was not further incidents on your trip to Philadelphia, PA."

Oelmann is not satisfied with the response and has shared her original post several times since then and said in a Thursday post that Megabus "basically stated that my complaint is bull."

"The blatant disregard for my safety makes me question your actual care for any of your other passengers (sic) safety, and I expect action to be taken in regards to this matter," Oelmann wrote on her original Facebook post.