The (mis-) adventures of our pals traveling to Occupy Congress demonstrations that begin tomorrow, Jan. 17th, was picked up the Rachel Maddow Blog (see above). This drove hundreds of viewers to our site – thanks Rachel – we watch you nearly every night. By 9:00 a.m. this morning (1/16/12) the post had over 1700 hits.
So even though our friends had to spend extra hours at a Greyhound bus depot without much in the way of amenities, they’ve been met with food and coffee by Occupy supporters, gained a lot of media attention … and now this showcase of their plight at the hands of a grumpy bus driver who illegal discriminates against Occupy politicos on a national TV show. (Are Hollywood contracts far behind?)
Here is the text from Rachel’s blog page:
Occupy Congress happens tomorrow, with Occupiers from around the country making the trek to Washington, D.C., for a day of protests and visiting with their elected officials. One group, Occupy San Diego, ran into trouble when their Greyhound bus driver gave them the boot in Amarillo, Texas. The story made the local news, in the report below.
The OB Rag, out of Ocean Beach, California, had been following their trip with posts from Eugene Davidovich, whose photo is above. He writes that the bus driver challenged them about how they’d managed to buy tickets. From the OB Rag:
After the second “sit down and shut up”, several passengers began to voice their concern about the hostility and disrespect coming from the driver. One of those voicing a concern about the luggage was Michael Ponsler. He asked the driver why he was being so rude and disrespectful.
The driver spun around, and shouted, “Who said that?!”
It was me, Michael calmly responded.
“You, off my bus!”, the driver shouted.
Michael explained to the driver that he was part of a group traveling together, that he had done nothing wrong, and was simply inquiring about the bags and customer service. This seemed to outrage the driver even more and he began to shout, “all of you Occupy people, off my bus!”
The Occupiers spent the night in the Amarillo bus station before getting on a bus Sunday morning. It sounds like they made the best of it, though it was also kind of a drag. “One girl was refused her shoes when she got kicked off the bus,” Misty Hanna wrote on Occupy Amarillo’s Facebook page. “She is now shoeless and stranded in a bus station. If anyone can get a pair of shoes to her, she wears 8 1/2.”
Meanwhile, sympathizers around the country pressed the cause enough that Greyhound tweeted it was aware of the “Occupy Congress situation.” After they got underway again, the OB Rag reports, the riders were welcomed in Oklahoma City by fellow activists bearing coffee and food for the road.
Here is another version of the story picked up by national website OpEdNews:
Texas Police Bungle OWS Greyhound Discrimination Incident
By Chaz Valenza / opednews.com / Jan. 16, 2012
Thirteen OWS protesters are discriminated against. Who is at fault? The local authorities missed a chance to enforce the law and send a clear message to the perpetrator and his employer.
We have now waited nearly a day for a response from Greyhound CEO David Leach regarding the discriminatory treatment of 13 Occupy protesters from San Diego, CA who were removed by Amarillo, TX police yesterday from a bus bound for Washington D.C.
Greyhound corporate offices are not open, today being a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All we have is this terse tweet: “Hi All, we are aware of the Occupy Congress situation. We have notified executive management. We appreciate your patience.”
Prima facie those in the Occupy movement upon hearing about the event are outraged. But before we condemn Greyhound or the driver, let’s consider the context and the behavior of the local authorities.
First, discrimination is based on a number of things illegal in the United States of America. Certainly, no one should face discrimination for their political opinions.
Second, the right to protest is being curtailed by federal, state and local law, i.e. the need for permits, undue restrictions on benign activities, police declarations of “frozen zones,” etc. all enforced by the threat and execution of either nuisance citations, physical police action and/or arrest, many of which have been overtly brutal.
Onto the facts. Here’s the eyewitness account from one of the protesters involved, Michael “All-in” Ponsler as reported by OBRag of Ocean Beach, CA:
“Don Ainsworthy, Greyhound’s most psychotic driver really screwed up tonight. This man was completely rude to all passengers waiting to board and when he saw our Occupy logos he made several negative comments.
“Once we were on the bus this guy began shouting at people to sit down and shut up. This did not go over well with any of the passengers, but I made it clear that we will not be treated so disrespectfully.
“He then came back and told me to get off the bus. I refused.
“The driver exited the bus, locked us in the bus for over an hour while he called the police.
“Police officers boarded the bus and agreed that the driver was being inappropriate. Surprisingly, the police attempted to negotiate on our behalf.
“The driver refused to allow us to stay on board and demanded that all the occupiers be removed. Of course, the police officers were required to support his “authority.'”
Digging deeper, we are trying to confirm two facts and will update this story accordingly: 1) local Greyhound desk staff and baggage handlers say Don Ainsworthy is complained against repeatedly. If true, Greyhound may have a problem employee, but without their response we can’t know for sure. 2) There are reports, again unconfirmed, that the Amarillo police have had remove to passengers often from Greyhound buses and a large number of these situations were initiated by the same driver.
Greyhound’s own regulations specify that “carriers reserve the right to refuse to transport a person under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, or who is incapable of taking care of him/herself, or whose conduct is such or likely to be such as to make him or her objectionable to other passengers or prospective passengers, or who refuses to comply with any lawful rule or regulation of the carrier.”
What is known, according to a report from Reddit by Road2CongressOSD, is the police came on the bus and spoke with the protesters and stated they knew the driver’s attitude was poor but he had the right to remove them. Really?
Maybe so, and with that Greyhound’s responsibility grows. If the police had told the driver he had no right to remove the protesters, or stronger still, he was breaking the law by discriminating against otherwise lawful customers of a public accommodation, that would have put both the driver and Greyhound right where they deserved to be, in the legal hot seat.
The account goes on to say that the police officer and the driver then walked through the bus together, “”Don asked every passenger “are you with Occupy?’ To the 13 of us who responded yes, the police ordered them to exit the bus. Then Don said “Anyone else support Occupy? You can get off too!'”
San Diego Occupiers stranded last night in Amarillo were back on the road, in another Greyhound bus to D.C. at 5:40 a.m. this morning.