Disabled Protesters Arrested After Blocking Bus Station
ATLANTA (AP) _ Police arrested 25 disabled protesters outside a bus station late Wednesday after about 200 demonstrators blocked entrances, forcing buses to unload passengers on a busy downtown streets.
Police loaded the protesters in wheelchairs into buses equipped with wheelchair lifts - devices the demonstrators were demanding be provided on Greyhound-Trailways buses. Those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct or criminal trespassing and released.
Wednesday’s demonstration marked the third day of protests in Atlanta by American Disabled for Accessible Public Transportation. Members of the group occupied a federal building Monday and Tuesday in an unsuccessful bid to force the federal government to order wheelchair lifts installed on public buses.
That protest ended Tuesday when Bush administration officials promised to urge Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner to meet with the protesters.
On Wednesday, police began arresting demonstrators after more than 18 buses were forced to park on side streets to unload passengers because protesters were blocking the bus terminal.
First taken into custody were protesters sitting on buses, parked in front of them or sitting inside luggage compartments.
Barricades were placed on either side of the station to block off passers- by as protesters locked their wheelchairs together and chanted, ″Access is a civil right.″
Protest leader Michael Auberger said the group was demonstrating against a Greyhound-Trailways policy requiring passengers in wheelchairs to bring someone with them to carry them on and off Greyhound buses.
Tom Street, regional manager of Greyhound-Trailways, had asked police to arrest the protesters - one of whom chained himself by the neck to the steering wheel of the Nashville, Tenn.,-bound bus.
″This is to symbolize how the private industry tries to discriminate against us,″ said Clayton Jones, 41, of Houston. ″They feel if they give you a place to live you should live inside the four walls and not have any other life.″
Auberger said the group targeted the bus line for Wednesday’s demonstration because Greyhound-Trailways has refused to add wheelchair lifts to its buses because of the costs.
″We’re making improvements to handle the handicapped. We can’t handle it in tis manner,″ said Street, refusing further comment.
Greyhound’s ″helping hands″ policy requires a passenger in a wheelchair to be carried on and off the buses but allows a companion to travel with the disabled passenger free of charge. The policy also prohibits battery-powered wheelchairs inside the bus.