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Kimberley Withnell was sitting on the top deck of the number 34 service around 6pm on Wednesday when she overheard a woman about two rows away make a series of racial slurs towards the boys who had been laughing and joking amongst themselves.
The 34-year-old eye-witness told the Edinburgh Evening News that she was left angry and upset by the remarks which included references to their skin colour and assumptions about where they come from.
Ms Withnell, a mental health worker from the south west of Edinburgh, said: “I overheard the comments and said ‘you can not say things like that, you are being offensive,’ and I was told ‘who asked you, I do not need your opinion.’
“The boys were just being a bit loud. They were not doing any harm and they were joking among themselves and talking loudly and she was on the phone but made a really loud comment and said, 'I really hate black people.'
“She was directing various comments towards them and they said, ‘why are you calling us names and what have we done?’ They were just challenging what she said and not being aggressive. The guys responded really well. Their behaviour was mature and they just asked why she had to bring race into it. They were mocking her attitude. She called them ‘Maltesers.’
“I said to her again, ‘you are being really stupid and ignorant and no one should have to listen to that.’ She was trying to insult me and telling me ‘you are not practising what you preach’ and started talking about freedom of speech and said ‘what are you going to do about it?’
“It was racist, prejudiced and nasty.’”
Ms Withnell also said she heard the woman tell the boys to go back to their own country which she assumed to be somewhere in the Caribbean, and made threats to them that she would call her brother.
Another passenger, a young woman, sitting at the back of the bus also intervened and said the comments were “completely out of order.”
Quick police response
Ms Withnell said the group of boys had got on the bus in Lothian Road at the same time as her on Wednesday evening. She said the abuse lasted for about ten to 15 minutes before the boys disembarked close to the Fountain News convenience store in Dundee Street.
Ms Withnell followed them downstairs and reported the incident to the bus driver who agreed to stop the bus if she wanted to call police. She said the driver also notified the Lothian Buses control room.
Within minutes, two police vans arrived and officers began taking statements from witnesses and spoke to a woman who allegedly made the remarks.
Police confirmed that a 20-year-old woman has been arrested and charged in connection with the incident.
Ms Withnell added: “I am just glad the police took it seriously.
“It’s quite relevant at the moment because of Pride and the Black Lives Matter movement. Racism should not be allowed in a city like Edinburgh and it’s completely uncalled for.
“I do work in mental health and have a zero tolerance for anything like that and that behaviour is abhorrent.”
Ms Withnell said one of the boys thanked her for intervening and a couple of other passengers made supportive comments.
A police spokesperson said: “A 20 year old woman was arrested and charged after racially abusing a passenger on a bus in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh yesterday evening.
“If you have any further information about this incident please call 101 and quote incident 2838 of 23rd June 2021.”