Four Arrested For Blocking Roads During Beacon Hill Protest
On Monday, Boston Police arrested four people protesting fare increases on the MBTA’s door-to-door para-transit system during a tense standoff on Beacon Hill.
Hundreds of riders, some of whom said they would be “stranded” at home if the MBTA continues to increase fees in order to use the agencies RIDE services, gathered outside the State House to voice concerns about the rising cost to utilize the public transportation option. While many stood on the sidewalks, holding signs and chanting, others—including several protesters in wheelchairs and one visually impaired man—blocked access to cars traveling on Beacon Street until they were either physically removed or detained by police.
In an effort to rally support for cheaper transportation options for seniors and the disabled, the protesters decried a new joint transportation bill put forth by the Senate and House of Representatives this month, which was scheduled to go to vote on Monday, while also calling for a rollback of the increase implemented on The RIDE last summer. According to reports, use of The RIDE decreased dramatically since the price to take the services skyrocketed in 2012. A one-way fare on the system shot up from $2 to $4 last July. The price was raised to address a looming budget gap and to fund the service.
Denise Jackson, 54, who is wheelchair-bound, says police denied her the right to be arrested for her act of civil disobedience when they moved her wheelchair from the middle of the road on Monday, and back onto the sidewalk in front of the State House. “I am bothered that I didn’t get arrested. I’m [expletive]. I feel like I was forced back on the sidewalk—if Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks are good enough to get arrested for standing up for themselves, so am I.”
Jackson says she regularly uses The RIDE to get to doctors appointments and attend group meetings, but the high cost to use the system has left her stranded at home. She says additional increases would be even worse. “I would be isolated. That isolation would increase for me,” she says. Jackson is on a fixed income and already had to cut back on certain priorities, including trips to church, and to see family, when the MBTA doubled the price in 2012.
While Jackson narrowly avoided being put in handcuffs and placed into a police vehicle parked on Beacon Street, other protesters that refused to move for traffic were hauled away by officers. Among those arrested were John Robinson, a member of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, transportation advocate Dave Jenkins, Carolyn Villers, executive director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and Rose Ellen McGarvey, of Lynn.
The legislature’s proposed bill would pump $500 million into transportation investments by increasing the gas tax and adding a $1 fee to the cost of tobacco. But Governor Deval Patrick, who floated a more extensive transportation funding option earlier this year, has vowed to veto the bill if it comes before him, calling it a “short-term fiscal shell game” that will cost the taxpayers more money without fixing the state’s roads and public transit options.
Ann Stewart, president of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, backed Patrick on Monday, saying the bill does nothing to address the crisis that The RIDE users face. “We have asked the House and Senate to intervene and stop the suffering, but they have refused. We can’t just sit back and allow this to continue—inaction is no longer an option.”