1987 – Phoenix – Mark Johnson

Phoenix is the home to world-class hotels and resorts, fine dining, exhilarating adventure, breath-taking golf courses, trendy shopping, modern night-life and enriching culture. It’s also the home to a transit system that only has 36 accessible buses out of a fleet of over 300 and no plans to become 100% accessible.

Day 1
We organized 2 actions. First, we welcomed APTA members and their spouses to Phoenix by forming a gauntlet at Sky Harbor Airport. That night, it was off to Rustlers Rooste. Rustler’s Rooste is located 15 minutes from downtown. The legend goes that the original site, atop a butte in the foothills of South Mountain, was a hideout for cattle rustlers. Today, it is Arizona’s Legendary Cowboy Steakhouse, also serves rattle snake. It provides an unparalleled view of the city lights. That night, APTA members and their spouses couldn’t hide and they had a view of us. We blocked the roads and main entrances. All the chartered buses had to be re-routed and APTA guests had to walk. Tom Olin, his first full action, took plenty of pictures, women with high hill shoes and businessmen in suits walking up and down a dirt mountain path.

Days 2-5
The first action was at the Hyatt, headquarters to the Convention. In those days we’d roll back and forth, not enough of us to take all the entrances and exits. Several of us also started blocking buses at the major transit exchange. When the police would pull one of us off, another one would take our place. Fifteen activists and I got arrested and transported to a general prison pod. It’d been freshly painted. Once they found out some of us needed bowel programs, we were shipped to the prison infirmary and confined to individual cells.

Rigid schedule, nothing to do or nobody to talk to, I looked forward to the daily visit by the library cart. Mike Auberger killed time in his cell by counting the holes in the ceiling tiles. In the beginning I was a little freaked out by the isolation, but everyday Wade, our friendly clergy (just another hat that he wore), would visit and update us. His hardest task was explaining to my wife why I wasn’t going to get home when expected.

While we were in, folks on the outside repeatedly hit the Hyatt and disrupted a spouses lunch function in the Biltmore Estates area, 76 people were arrested.

Most folks had already gone home. Wade appears with the good news: we’re being released. The story of our efforts had gone national. The City of Phoenix was brought to its knees.

This was the first action were the transit officials and media called us PROFESSIONAL protestors. All in all it was a great action; it exploited the rationale of local option. APTA members and their spouses experienced barriers and the public became more aware. Richard (Bob) Michael’s, ABIL (local ILC), Executive Director, wrote that there had been more public discussion in 5 days than there had been in 5 years. In addition the Mayor made a public statement supporting lifts on all new buses.