1985 – Los Angeles – Gil Casarez

Los Angeles was my first trip. It started with Bob Kafka inviting me to go on a ADAPT action, I remember it was in September of 1985. I thought we were going on a vacation to the beach and Disneyland. Little did I know we were going to a demonstration for the rights of disabled Americans to ride public transportation. I thought to myself “What the HELL did Bob get me into!”

I remember waking up early in the morning, lining up to march down city streets, converging on different locations where the conventions were being held and demonstrating about the indifference that they felt about making buses accessible.

As many people as possible would try to enter the building before the police would lock us out and arrest those inside. So we quickly moved to the intersections and rolled around the crosswalks to disrupt the rush hour traffic around the location. That made the police force and transit officials very aggravated. Mayhem is the word to explain what was going on. We knew what we were doing, but no one else did, it was great.

Later that night we gathered at the LA County jail for a cold night of a vigil to help those that had been taken there earlier. To let those folks know that they were not alone, we were still with them. Amazement is what I saw, all of these folks coming together for something so powerful, something that we all agreed upon “CAN YOU HEAR US ON THE INSIDE?”

The next day when everyone was out of jail we went to Long Beach. We staged ourselves at different locations around the city blocks. It was about four city blocks wide. At that point I thought it would be a great time to reflect and hand out leaflets of what we were there for and what we were fighting to achieve. At a set time, someone yelled the word “GO” and everyone that was around the city blocks, that were staged and ready to mobilize, rolled off the curbs and blocked the busses that were coming around the corner. We kept them there until the police appeared and started arresting people who wouldn’t move. Power, we showed our power.

LA, wow, what an adventure! I knew then that I could say that experience was either going to make me, or break me for the actions to come. I had decided that LA was my first and last ADAPT protest… Well here we sit 23 years later.