On Sept. 8, six wheelchair-bound citizens were issued misdemeanor citations for trespassing.
They were blocking Greyhound Lines Inc. buses, protesting that company's restrictions on travel for the disabled. The police asked them to leave, but they refused.The wheelchair-bound suspects came to 3rd Circuit Court Friday morning to plead their case, only to find that the charges had been dismissed.
That dismissal has only infuriated the protesters, who vowed they would picket Greyhound again at its downtown Salt Lake terminal.
"They need to take us more seriously," said protester Jeannie Morris. "They've dismissed the charges but we're not going to dismiss our actions."
Said protester Barbara Toomer: "When one is prepared to accept a sentence for our purpose of civil disobedience, and the charge is dismissed, it's a letdown. We wanted our day in court. We don't even know why the charges were dismissed."
City Prosecutor Cheryl Luke said the charges were dismissed because Greyhound did not want to pursue the matter.
Luke said dismissing minor charges is a common practice, especially when the victim refuses to pursue the case and when no restitution is outstanding.
"Once the victims (Greyhound) felt they were satisfied, it didn't seem wise to waste court time on the case."
Greyhound spokeswoman Liz Hale said the company called the police to get the protesters to stop interfering with business, but she said she did not know why the company didn't want to seek punishment for the offenders.
The handicapped protesters, members of the local chapter of American Disabled for Accessible Public Transport (ADAPT), want Greyhound to equip its buses with lifts for people confined to wheelchairs.
They would also like a written statement of the company's policy.
One of the protesters said Greyhound's policy on handicapped access to the buses is unclear.
They cite the example of a young man, confined to a wheelchair, who solicited another passenger to be his "attendant." Greyhound requires attendants for mobility-impaired passengers. However, the young man was denied access on the bus because the "attendant" was not a relative.
"They just make up the rules as they go along," said one protester.
But Hale said from her Dallas office that the "Helping Hands" program, which provides a free ticket for an "attendant" to accompany and assist a handicapped person on a bus trip, is written and available to anyone who wants it. She said she will make sure the local Greyhound office is aware of that.
Hale also said that company officials are meeting with national members of ADAPT to address the group's complaints.