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January 16, 2012

Greyhound Driver Evicts OWS Fares with Texas Police Support

By Chaz Valenza

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.


Update: As of nine o'clock tonight, January 17, we have had no response from the Greyhound corporate offices, neither directly or on Twitter.

Update: In an e-mail from the Amarillo Police Crime Prevention Unit, Sargent Brent Barbee cannot confirm reports that bus driver Donald Ainsworthy has initiated a number of requests t o police to remove to passengers.  

In his reply to an OpEdNews query, Sargent Barbee asks, " Can you advise me which officer or source provided you with that information?  Normally, media releases are made by the Crime Prevention Unit or on-scene supervisors.  I am not aware of any authorized release of this nature."  

The paragraph citing unconfirmed reports of the above and that Greyhound personnel in Amarillo say Ainsworthy is the subject of numerous passenger complaints has be removed.

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.

Waylaid on the road to Occupy Congress
(Image by OB Rag, Ocean Beach, CA)
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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.'"

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.

Submitters Bio:

Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration caused the greatest tragedy of the space age based on Richard C. Cook's book "Challenger Revealed." He is a former Director of Public Information for Planned Parenthood of NYC. His website is: www.WordsWillNever.com