SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty-five disabled people demanding more access to public transit were arrested Monday as they blocked two buses at a convention of the American Public Transit Assn.
Police said nine others were arrested later in the day for failure to disperse outside the Hilton Hotel, where the organization was holding some of its meetings.
Monday's arrests followed a rowdy rally of 500 people Sunday afternoon outside City Hall, where 19 protesters were arrested for blocking the sidewalk. One other was arrested for investigation of assaulting a police officer.
"It's a very emotional issue for disabled people to have to come out here and do this," said Judy Heumann of the Berkeley-based World Institute on Disability, a protest leader who was not arrested.
About 150 people, most of whom were in wheelchairs, traveled about a mile to the convention center from the Hilton led by a police escort. They chanted, "Up with access! Down with APTA!"
After the arrests, a group of about 25 wheelchair-bound people and other supporters sat across the street from the Moscone Center in a specially designated area for protesters, passing out leaflets and chanting through a megaphone.
Heumann said demonstrators will be at the conference every day until it ends.
For more than 10 years, groups of disabled transit riders have tried to get the transit association to declare a national policy giving disabled commuters access to the same buses and trains that the rest of the public rides.
Another protester, Kitty Cone, said APTA mounted a huge campaign to overturn a federal mandate in 1981 that required all public transportation to be accessible to the disabled.
Now, the matter of access has been left to local transit districts, some of which have chosen to carry disabled riders on separate buses, she said.