Activists in wheelchairs block street in front of State House; protesters criticize MBTA fare hikes

Protesters chained their wheelchairs together as they faced the oncoming traffic.
Protesters chained their wheelchairs together as they faced the oncoming traffic.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Activists in wheelchairs protesting MBTA fare hikes briefly blocked a busy street in front of the State House in downtown Boston today, snarling traffic but retreating before they were arrested by police.

The protesters moved into the street shortly after noon at the corner of Park and Beacon streets. Protesters chanted, “Governor Patrick now,” saying they wouldn’t leave until Governor Deval Patrick talked to them. They also chanted, “We can’t ride, you can’t drive.”

Traffic, including a Duck Boat with curious tourists, backed up on Beacon. Boston police, who responded about 15 minutes later, shut off Beacon Street just beyond Park Street and directed all traffic down Park.

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Police asked the protesters to move, but couldn’t persuade them. Police used bolt cutters to cut the chains connecting the protesters’ six wheelchairs, as protesters yelled, “Shame, Shame!” But the protesters still did not leave.

Then, shortly before 1 p.m., as police rolled a prisoner transport van into position, protesters asked for a moment to confer. They said they had decided to “leave on our own terms,” after making their point. But as they rolled onto a nearby sidewalk, they vowed to return, and chanted, “Governor Patrick, shame on you.”

Fare hikes and service cuts were announced in March as part of a plan close the $160 million MBTA budget deficit for the coming fiscal year.

The cost of a one-way fare on The Ride, the door-to-door service for the disabled, will rise from $2 to $4 for most riders. The cost would increase to $5 for customers outside of the area the T is legally required to serve. The fare hikes are expected to go into effect this summer.

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