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Cable Cars Shackled in Transit Protest

September 30, 1987|United Press International

SAN FRANCISCO — Handicapped protesters in wheelchairs chained themselves to a cable car Tuesday, blocking the tracks of San Francisco's No. 1 tourist attraction to underscore demands for better access to public transportation.

"Try getting on one of those when you're in a wheelchair," one man shouted.

There was no violence during the demonstration at the Powell Street cable car turntable.

Police arrested 76 of the more than 100 protesters, most of them in wheelchairs, on charges of failure to disperse and blocking the street. Those arrested were taken to the Hall of Justice in vans equipped with wheelchair lifts.

"It's a logistical nightmare," Police Sgt. Jerry Senkir said from the jail where demonstrators were taken. "The great majority are requesting they be booked" instead of cited and released, he said.

The display of civil disobedience was the latest in a series of protests coinciding with the annual convention of the American Public Transit Assn., which continues through Thursday at the Moscone Convention Center.

Protest organizers said they are not against the cable cars, inaccessible to most handicapped people, but chose them as a symbol of their plight.

Service on the Powell Street cable car line was suspended during the protest. When the cars again rolled, several hundred bemused tourists were booed and heckled by the protesters.

For the most part, the tourists seemed to take it all in stride, patiently waiting for the protest to end and passing time by reading explanatory leaflets handed out by the protesters.

The demonstrators are pushing for a nationwide policy promoting access to public transit vehicles and systems for handicapped people. The American Public Transit Assn.'s policy is to let local public transit districts formulate policies on an individual basis.

During demonstrations on Sunday and Monday, 56 people were arrested.

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