[nfbmi-talk] the kevin worley story
Terry D. Eagle
terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 7 14:59:36 UTC 2014
I recall the event, as I was at home sleeping 16 hours a day while
recovering from mono. Mark Eagle was a year old, and I wondered then if
this was his future facing ignorance, second-class citizenship, and a
general lack of dignity and respect by persons in authority and the public.
Fortunately, because of the NFB and our manning the barricades we now can
purchase a bus or airline ticket unquestioned as an equal to the sighted,
not surrender our white cane anymore than a sighted citizen with a walking
cane, or force into a career of basket weaving or broom-making. Yet such
basic gains were not achieved by going-along-to-get-along, or reserved for a
few blind fortunate enough to be well connected. Despite progress, many
barriers to equality, opportunity, security and independence need to be
removed, and the barricades to progress need to be manned on an ongoing
It never stops to amaze me how with success and money, and advancement in
age by some people, there is a lack of memory of roots and struggles, some
From: nfbmi-talk [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of joe
harcz Comcast via nfbmi-talk
Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2014 5:08 PM
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Subject: [nfbmi-talk] the kevin worley story
And he stopped those of us fighting for civil rights of the blind from even
documenting violations at the Leadership Seminar, and called those who did
>From The Braille Monitor April 1987
The Kevin Worley Story
A LESSON IN CIVIL RIGHTS
by Peggy Pinder
(Editor's Comments: In the middle part of the nineteenth
century, America was torn by the question of slavery. At that
time James Russell Lowell said:
Truth forever on the scafferd;
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet, that scafferd sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows,
Keeping watch above his own.
On another occasion Lowell said:
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
The kind of slavery which Lowell protested no longer exists
in America, but that does not mean that oppression has been
eliminated or slavery completely abolished. As you read the
following article, ask yourself what you would have done if you
had stood in Kevan Worley's place in the line at the bus station.
How would you have felt as your small children, your wife, and
the crowd of bystanders witnessed your humiliation? What scars
will be left on the nine-year-old son and the two-year-old
Ordinarily the Monitor does not make a practice of printing
offensive language, but we make an exception in the present
instance. The blind of the nation and their friends must know
what was said by the police. It is no game we play, this
business of self-organization and struggle for equal treatment.
It is as vital and important as the lives and destinies of us
all, and those who fear the consequences of the struggle for
freedom should consider carefully and quietly drop out of line.
There is a price to be paid, and the time of payment is now.
There is also a reward to be achieved. Its name is freedom, and
we do not intend for it to be postponed until future generations.
We intend to have some of it now--some for ourselves, and even
more for the blind who come after us. However, we can only have
it if we are prepared to work for it, sacrifice for it, and fight
for it. Freedom is like that. It is never given. It must
always be earned.
With this in mind what are you prepared to do on a daily
basis as you interact with family, friends, acquaintances, and
strangers? And what are you prepared to do to build and
strengthen the National Federation of the Blind? Individual
action and collective action--both are required. In short, you
and the Federation. Each of us should think of these things and
ponder our own level of commitment as we contemplate the Kevan
Worley story. Here it is in the words of Peggy Pinder, who
served as attorney for the Worleys.)
What happens in the United States if an individual stands up
and asserts rights guaranteed by law? Our textbooks and our
traditions tell us that law protects us, that human and civil
rights lie at the very core of our nation's jurisprudence. But
human and civil rights are the end result. Someone had first to
stand up for those rights and often had to suffer for doing so.
A glance at American legal history reveals many victims, men
and women whose rights were trampled upon and who never
personally achieved redress in court. The great case of Marbury
v. Madison established the Supreme Court as the final decider of
what is and is not permitted under our Constitution. As a
footnote to history, William Marbury, who originally brought the
suit, lost completely. The slave plaintiff Dred Scott lost his
case to compel his freedom, a defeat which helped to bring about
the Civil War. Homer Plessy lost his case for equal treatment of
blacks and whites by railroad companies, ushering in the legal
permission to segregate people by race known as "separate but
equal" treatment. Japanese-American internee Toyosubaro
Korematsu lost his case to have the World War II internment of
Japanese- Americans declared unconstitutional. The Supreme
Court's permission for imprisonment based on race in Korematsu
provoked the Federation's founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, then a
university professor and legal scholar, to write a learned
protest which earned him a permanent place in American legal
tradition. Dr. tenBroek's analysis is the starting point of
every first-year law student's study of the Fourteenth Amendment
to the United States Constitution, and his insights and language
are used routinely by today's lawyers.
History has slowly righted the wrongs inflicted in these
individual cases. But many of the individuals who first asserted
important civil rights did not live to enjoy those rights
The suffering of these men and women did not begin with
their final defeat in court. When a human or civil right is
violated, the pain and humiliation are immediate and last a
lifetime. When one human being treats another as an inferior, as
second-class, as subhuman, both human beings are degraded. The
one who receives the injury must be strong indeed to prevent it
from warping and embittering the outlook.
We blind people are accustomed to dealing with people who
believe us less capable than our neighbors. The National
Federation of the Blind serves as our vehicle for righting these
wrongs and for bringing about a better world in which the blind
will be accepted as equals. The Federation also serves each of
us as a source of strength, helping us to keep perspective and
teaching us that bitterness and resentment will not change the
world. Only a strong belief in ourselves and a willingness to
work for creative change will bring the results we seek.
There is a long list of Federationists who have led the way
in suffering arrest and public harassment because they stood up
for their rights. Judy Sanders, Russell Anderson, Steve and
Nadine Jacobson, Gary Mackenstadt, Barbara Pierce, Larry Krejci,
Sharon Gold, Sheryl Pickering, David Estes, Kevin Harris, and
Fred Schroeder have all been arrested in the last two years for
sitting in their assigned airline seats, seats which turned out
to be in exit rows. Only Steve and Nadine Jacobson were ever
tried in a court of law. As for all the others, they were never
even charged, or the charges were dropped by local prosecutors or
judges who knew that the blind person had committed no crime.
The Jacobsons told their story to a jury as did United Airlines.
The Jacobsons won, receiving a complete acquittal from the jury.
Other Federationists--President Maurer, Mary Ellen Reihing,
Bonnie O'Day, Paul Gabias, Curtis Chong, Jan Uribes, Steve
Hastalis --have been physically removed or barred from airplanes
or have been falsely told that their flight was "canceled,"
though the airlines did not have the courage to arrest these men
and women. They were simply refused passage when they insisted
on sitting in their exit row seats--seats assigned to them (not
by their request) by the airlines.
Each of these men and women underwent the pain and
humiliation of public harassment when they stood up for their
rights. Each was finally vindicated by the courts as completely
as by their own consciences. Each has learned the lesson of
Federationism in a new way. But even if a court had found each
and every one of them guilty of some criminal charge, every one
of them would still stand acquitted before their own beliefs.
Each of them chose their beliefs over immediate comfort, their
beliefs over the wishes of those around them, their beliefs over
the usual practice of complying with directives of those in
charge. Each is stronger, and we are all stronger for it.
Each is stronger because he or she learned that, when you
seem most to be alone, when the people all around you seem to be
united against you, that is when you feel most strongly the
supporting force of 50,000 other blind people encouraging you to
endure for principle and belief. The journey from second- class
citizenship to first-class status is never easy, but it is always
worth the effort and exceedingly rewarding. In fact, it is
likely to be more painful than anything else except staying where
you are as a second-class citizen.
Kevan and Debbie Worley are Federationists from St. Louis
where Kevan serves as a chapter president. Both are blind.
Neither had ever been arrested for insisting on equal treatment
before September 4, l986. They had always been there when
someone else needed encouragement and support. They knew that
their rights in Missouri were protected by a White Cane Law
making violation of the civil rights of a blind person a crime,
and they had a friend whose recent illness called them to make an
eighty-mile bus trip to cheer and encourage the long hours of
On September 4, l986, Kevan and Debbie Worley, both carrying
their white canes, arrived at the Trailways bus station in St.
Louis at about 7:00 a.m. with their son and daughter. The
Worleys got in line while their son went to play video games.
When they arrived at the ticket counter, they stepped into that
twilight world where a person's simple dignity and humanity must
be fought for before the judge of conscience and belief. Here in
their own words is what happened:
Affidavit of Kevan Worley
Comes now Kevan Worley and, being first duly sworn, deposes
and states as follows:
1. My name is Kevan Worley. My address is 5432 Odell
Street, St. Louis, Missouri, 63139. I am totally blind.
2. On Thursday morning, September 4, 1986, my wife Deborah
and I and our two children, Jayson, age nine, and Megan Beth, age
two, took a cab from our home to the Trailways Bus station in
downtown St. Louis. We left our home at approximately 6:50
Thursday morning, arriving at the bus station a little after
7:00. Our son Jayson went to play video games, while Megan,
Deborah, and I got in line to buy tickets. We were going to
visit friends in Festus, Missouri, some forty miles south of St.
3. When it came our turn to purchase tickets, Deborah
asked the female ticket agent for two adult and one child's
ticket to Festus. The ticket agent asked to see a doctor's
letter. Deborah said we did not need a letter from a doctor
since we weren't asking for any half price fares, except for a
child's ticket which is always half fare. The lady asked again
for a doctor's letter and Deborah said, "I don't understand.
We've never used a doctor's letter before, and anyway we want
full fare tickets for my husband and me and the full fare charged
for our children."
4. The ticket agent got very loud and once again told
Deborah that she would not be allowed to buy tickets without a
doctor's letter. At this point Deborah asked to see a supervisor
and was told that the supervisor would, "not be in until nine and
by that time your bus will be gone."
5. At this point I decided that the ticket agent must be
confused about my white cane and the fact that Deborah had asked
for a half fare ticket for our son. I explained that my wife and
I wanted full fare tickets and that the half fare ticket we
wanted was for our nine-year-old son. I explained that we didn't
want any special treatment or reductions in fare because of
blindness, just the ordinary tickets for adults and for children.
The ticket agent angrily replied that she wasn't going to sell us
tickets. I then said, "You've been rude to everyone in this
line. We've heard you. Please just sell us the tickets. We do
not want special treatment from you and we have a right under the
law to buy regular tickets. All we want to do is go to Festus."
The agent said, "I cannot sell you any Godamn tickets without a
6. At that time I told the ticket agent that we would not
move until she sold us tickets. She said, "I won't sell you any
fucking tickets so get out of my line." She then moved to the
next ticket window to my right. I picked up my cane, moved to my
right, and attempted to bar that window with the cane by holding
it horizontally across my body, five to six inches out away from
my chest along the edge of the counter. My right hand extended
down to the tip of the cane and my left hand was placed on the
handle of the cane. At no time did my cane leave our side of the
window or rise higher than the level of the countertop. My
attempt was to bar the window as a sign of defiance and I said,
"We won't be leaving if we're not allowed to buy tickets and go
to Festus, and neither will anybody else." As I moved to my
right, I accidentally brushed against an older lady. Deborah put
her arm around me and said, "it's an older lady." At that time,
the older lady moved around behind me to the ticket window
located to my left where we had orignally been standing. The
agent went back to that ticket window and they began to transact
7. Realizing that I could accomplish nothing by preventing
others from buying tickets, I then moved farther down the counter
to my right. As I did, I accidentally knocked over some object
sitting on the counter. It sounded like one of those hard molded
plastic cases that they put on the counter to display schedules
or credit card applications. The ticket agent then called the
police and said, "Somebody's bustin' up my station."
8. I continued every twenty to thirty seconds to say, "I
would like for my family and me to be sold tickets to Festus.
Please sell us tickets. Will someone from Trailways please sell
our family tickets to Festus. Look, all I want are tickets to
Festus." Those kinds of things I was saying every time I heard
someone walking up to the counter to buy tickets.
9. While I was doing this, I asked Deborah to go call the
police. Our rights under the Missouri White Cane law were being
violated, and I felt that we should call for police assistance.
Deborah went to call while I continued saying, "Please sell us
tickets to Festus" for another five to seven minutes.
10. As Deborah returned to my side with Megan in her arms
crying, police came up from behind us and asked Deborah, "Is this
the asshole busting up Trailways? Why in the hell does he want
to go to Festus?" Deborah said, "I don't know. You'll have to
ask him." They spun me around and the older sounding officer
said, "What the hell are you doing here? Why don't you get out
of here? This isn't a play." The younger-sounding one (I learned
later his name is Steve) said, "Where are you from? I know you
can't be from St. Louis. You're too fucking stupid." I had been
holding forty dollars in my hand the entire time. I held the two
twenty-dollar bills out to the officers and said, "I want to go
to Festus. That's all we want to do is go to Festus. You can
resolve this by talking to the agent. Would you please buy the
tickets for us? All we want to do is go to Festus." One of the
officers said, "You're not going anywhere. Just get the fuck out
of here." I said, "I'm sorry. I cannot leave if my family does
not get bus tickets to Festus."
11. The next thing I remember is officer Steve telling me,
"We'll take you in for resisting arrest." At this time Deobrah
said, "Are you arresting him? Is he under arrest? You can't do
that. You haven't told him he's under arrest." "The fuck we
can't. We can do anything we want. We're St. Louis police
officers," Steve said. Deborah asked, "Don't you have to read
his rights or anything?" "We don't have to read him shit," one of
the officers replied. At this point, they wrenched the cane from
my hands while Deborah protested by saying, "You can't do that.
You can't take his cane away." One of the officers said, "The
hell we can't" as I was spun around and handcuffed.
12. They started taking me to the door, and Deborah asked
if she could have the money in my front left pocket if they were
taking me in. One officer yelled, "No you can't" and the other
one said she could. All I knew at the time was that someone did
reach in my front left pocket and take the hundred-dollar bill.
(I later learned that Deborah had moved quickly to my side and
taken the bill before anyone tried to stop her.)
13. The two officers then marched me out to the street in
handcuffs. As they did, one of them said, "We'll take you down
with the niggers and see how your asshole likes that." The one
officer, Steve, was on my right. He moved very fast, while the
other officer on my left walked very slowly and started bending
my elbow up at a peculiar angle. This put me in an awkward and
painful position. By the time we reached the street, my elbow
had been bent up high enough that, combined with the different
paces of the officers, I was suffering considerable pain. I had
to try somehow to get my elbow down a little to ease the
14. It was at this point that one officer said, "Oh, you
want to struggle, huh, you mother fucker?" and threw me to the
ground. The other officer said, "Oh, he wants to fuckin'
struggle, huh?" When I fell, I landed on my right side. Steve
walked around me, prodding me with his shoes. I turned on to my
stomach to protect my face. Immediately the older sounding
officer called for an ambulance while Steve waived a billy club
over my head. I could feel the air and hear the whistling sound
of the club being waved over my head as Steve cursed me and
threatened me. He said, "Do you still want those fucking
Trailways tickets to Festus? Why don't you beg for them and I'll
split your fucking brains all over the sidewalk."
15. At this time I was very panicked and felt I should do
anything they said because I was feeling very threatened. I
started saying, "I'm sorry, man. Let's forget it, man." Steve
said, "Man? I'm not 'man.' I'm a fucking St. Louis police
officer." He then said something about showing him respect.
16. The officers then told me to get up. I tried to get up
and found that the handcuffs made it difficult to get my balance.
I fell back slightly, so they both jerked me to my feet and
shoved me into the back of a car. Steve got into the front seat
of the car while continuing to curse me by saying, "What in the
fuck do you think you're doing, you stupid, blind-assed mother
fucker." He continued to berate me with real anger and outrage.
I could hear real violence in his voice. I was terrified and
17. At this point I heard my wife approaching the car and
asking if she could have the house keys. One of the officers
relayed the message from Deborah to Steve in the front seat.
Steve reached back and attempted to get in my right pocket. He
was unsuccessful in getting the keys, so he got out of the car
and said, "I'm not going to strip search the son of a bitch out
here. I'm just not going to do it. You don't need the fucking
keys." Deborah said, "Where will you be taking him?" Steve
replied, "We'll be taking him to the Twelfth and Clark police
18. By this time there was at least one more officer (a
third one) on the scene--a police sergeant, I believe. I heard
one of the officers talk to a passer-by. The officer said
something about a civil matter and that this was a criminal
matter and the passer-by should "get the hell out of here." I
presume that this passer-by was offering information which would
19. The police officers then laughed at Deborah, who was
attempting to get into a cab. They said, "Look at the bitch now.
She's trying to take those kids home without her cane. Where the
hell is her cane? Why don't we arrest them both, throw them into
a cell and see how blind people fuck?" They all got a good laugh
out of this.
20. "They'll probably win a civil action and get about half
a million dollars," one of the officers said. "Why don't we just
put a gun to his head right now and ask for $10,000 in advance."
Again they all laughed heartily.
21. At this point, I heard another vehicle drive up. They
told me to get out of the car and asked me if I wanted to go to
the hospital. I said, "That will be up to these gentlemen." They
said, "Look, you either want to go to the hospital or you don't."
I said, "I don't know what you want me to do. I'll do whatever
it is you want to speed this thing up. I don't know what you
want me to do." The woman and man (they were new arrivals) asked
me if I wanted to go to the hospital. I said I didn't know.
They asked if I had any bruises or scratches and I said I had
some elbow scrapes, but I didn't know if they needed hospital
treatment. They turned me around slowly and said they didn't
think I'd be treated. I said I'd do whatever the officers wanted
me to do. At that time they exchanged information. I heard
papers shuffling. I was put back in the car where I sat by
myself for three to five minutes. I was then led out of the car
into a paddy wagon and taken to the police station.
22. I was taken from the paddy wagon by one officer and led
into the police station. On the way in, the other officer was
banging my cane on the ground repeatedly and quite hard. One
officer said, "Does that damned thing have some kind of sensor?"
The officer with the cane banged it harder, and I heard the ring
from the tip slide up the cane. He said, "It sure the fuck
doesn't now," and they both laughed about that.
23. Once inside the police station I was with Steve alone.
He took me to different desks. He didn't seem to know what was
going on. He was asking people, "Where do I take him? Where do
you want him?" He seemed to be confused about where to process
me. I was finally taken upstairs. It took almost half an hour
to fill out forms listing my property and getting information
such as my name and address, etc. He asked me to take everything
out of my pockets and asked me to count my money. I counted it
and said, "I believe there's about $5.80 there." He said he would
count it and said, "There's $6.10. The stupid blind fucker can't
even count." The two officers then debated for a while what to
charge me with. They didn't seem sure about this, and they
finally decided to say that I had assaulted each officer,
disturbed the peace, and resisted arrest. When they had
mentioned all these charges, they talked them over, and each one
agreed that I had done all those things.
24. I was then escorted by two other men to a cell after
waiting for a while for a woman to get sheets to put on a bed.
They talked about priding themselves on having special
accommodations and said they couldn't put me with others in the
jail. I said I didn't need sheets and that I'd just sit on the
bed. They again said they were able to deal with people "in your
condition." I was then locked in a cell for an hour and a half.
I was offered a honey bun which I did not accept. I was taken to
pre-trial, where I talked with a man named Mr. Webber. He said,
"You've got a business at the Municipal Court Building, don't
you?" I said, "Yes sir." Mr. Webber told me what my charges would
be and said a lawyer had already contacted them. I asked which
lawyer, and he said he didn't know, but that I should be out
shortly. I was then taken back to my cell for a time. Then a
man who works for the Muncipal Court came and apologized for my
being in there so long. He said he recognized me from our
business. He said, "I'd have been back here sooner, but I've
been so busy with all these real criminals. You will be released
on your own recognizance without having to put up any money." He
gave me something to sign, which I did. I waited for probably
another hour at which time I was taken to the finger- print man
named Stephen. He did many fingerprints on me, taking thirty or
forty minutes. Mug shots were also taken of me. I was then
escorted by another policeman on an elevator downstairs where I
was given my summons as well as my personal property. I next
went out to the lobby where I met my wife and my friend, Mr. Mark
Harris. This was at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon.
25. I later discovered that the jail officials had not
returned my wedding ring, a simple gold band, when they returned
my other property to me.
St. Louis, Missouri
This 8th day of September, 1986, KEVAN WORLEY personally
appeared before me.
Barbara A. Spoon, Notary Public
Affidavit of Deborah Worley
Comes now Deborah Worley and, being first duly sworn,
deposes and states as follows:
1. My name is Deborah Worley. My address is 5432 Odell
Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63139. My husband is Kevan Worley.
Both of us are blind.
2. On Thursday morning, September 4, 1986, I accompanied
my husband Kevan and my two children, Jayson and Megan, to the
Trailways bus station. We were on our way to visit some friends
in Festus, Missouri. Kevan and I had our long white canes with
us as we always do. We arrived at the bus station at a little
after 7:00 in the morning. We went to the ticket counter and
waited in line.
3. When we made it to the front of the line, I approached
the ticket agent, a woman, and told her that I wanted to purchase
a half-fare ticket for a child and two round trip adult tickets.
We did not need a ticket for our daughter since she is two and
would ride on one of our laps. The agent told me that I needed a
doctor's statement in order to do this, and I said we did not.
The agent said that in order to travel with the handicapped fare
one had to have a doctor's report. I said I did not want to
purchase a handicapped ticket and that I wanted to purchase
full-fare tickets for my husband and me, and a half-fare child's
ticket for my nine- year-old. I asked to see a supervisor and
was told her supervisor was not there and would not be in until
nine o'clock. She said that would be too late for our bus.
4. At this time Kevan tried to explain to her that we were
not asking for special treatment. She still refused to sell us
the tickets. Kevan then told her that she would sell us the
tickets. The agent again refused. Kevan and the agent continued
to disagree and the agent became louder and louder as well as
beginning to swear. She was abusive to Kevan. At this point
Kevan moved down the counter to the right. The agent called the
5. Kevan told me to call the police. I went to the pay
phone and called 911. I told the person who answered that I
needed an officer sent to the Trailways bus station. I gave her
my name and described the situation. She said there was an
officer on the scene. I said there was not an officer in the
station, and she insisted there was. I explained that we were
blind and that Trailways was refusing to sell us tickets, which
is a violation of Missouri law. She told me that Trailways did
not have to sell us a ticket if they didn't want to do so. I
asked if she was refusing to send an officer and she replied that
she could not send an officer without an address. I said we were
at the Trailways station downtown and that certainly any officer
would know its location. I was told she would need a street
address. I finally came up with the address and she said she
would send an officer.
6. At this time I returned to Kevan. My son joined us,
and my daughter was crying because she became frightened with
everyone starting to yell. Soon two police officers arrived.
One of them asked me if this was "the asshole tearing up the
station" and "what does he think he's doing here?" I said, "I
don't know. You'll have to talk to him." They began talking to
Kevan, asking him what he thought he was doing there. Kevan
explained what we had tried to do, showed them the money in his
hand. He even asked if the officer would purchase the tickets
and resolve the situation. He explained that all we wanted to do
was to go on our trip.
7. The officer told Kevan that we had to leave, and we
refused to do so because we thought that Missouri law protected
our right to be treated like everyone else.
8. The officer said he was going to arrest Kevan for
resisting arrest. I said, "Does this mean he is under arrest?
Are you arresting him?" The officer said he could do anything he
wanted to do. His language was very foul. The officer very
quickly grabbed Kevan and pulled Kevan's arms behind his back.
Kevan's cane was grabbed from his hand, and I reached for the
cane, saying, "You can't take that! What are you doing?" An
officer slapped hand- cuffs on Kevan very roughly and said, "I
can do any fucking thing I want to do." I again asked if Kevan
was under arrest and said, "You have to tell him what his rights
are." He said, "I don't have to do a fucking thing."
9. The officer also said, "I'll arrest you, too." At that
time I took a step or so backwards because my children were with
10. They hurried Kevan outside. I got my children as
quickly as I could out to the front of the station. By the time
I got there, the officers had Kevan on the ground. He was lying
face down on the sidewalk. I ran over and said, " What are you
doing to him?" One of the officers was circling Kevan. I believe
it was officer Steve Holt, and he was yelling at Kevan about
having to respect him because he was an officer of the law. He
was again using foul language and I said, "What are you doing?"
He told me to get the fuck away from him. I backed up again
because he seemed to be violent, and I felt that any minute he
very well might strike me or Kevan or possibly my children. He
held a club as he circled Kevan. He was screaming just like a
person who didn't know what he was doing. There was no logic to
the things he was saying.
11. I went into the station at this time, trying to think
of what to do. I left my son standing there but carried my
daughter with me. I knew I had to call for help from somebody.
I attempted to call Mark Harris, and in being frightened I first
dialed my home number.
12. I went back outside. At this time Kevan was in the
police car. I again attempted to talk to the officer. I asked
where Kevan was being taken and he told me to the Clark Street
station. I said, "So, is he under arrest?" I asked if I could
get our house keys from Kevan. At this time the officer became
angry and again threatened me with arrest. I asked Kevan if he
was okay, and the officer started to move from the car. He
picked up his club again and told me to, "Shut the fuck up; I'm
tired of messing with you. Keep it up and I'll arrest you too."
At that time, Kevan yelled from the back seat instructing me to
call Mr. Maurer.
13. Another police car pulled up along with a police van.
I approached one of the new officers, asking if I could get
Kevan's house key. They refused to let me do this. I was again
threatened with arrest by Officer Holt.
14. At this time I was able to get a Laclede cab and I took
my children home. My son climbed through a window in the house
because we did not have a key. I then contacted Mr. Maurer of
the National Federation of the Blind.
SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN before me this 8th day of September,
Ardith I. Hammond, Notary Public
Despite the Worleys' belief, Missouri law did not protect
their rights at the Trailways bus station. The National
Federation of the Blind immediately swung into action. The next
day, Federationists from Missouri and three other states--more
than fifty blind people with less than twenty-four hours'
notice--converged on the St. Louis bus station to picket
Trailways and to protest the treatment of the Worleys.
Television, radio, and newspaper reports of these incredible
events spread throughout the St. Louis area. The common reaction
throughout St. Louis was outrage that such a thing could occur.
The public responded in person as well. Many people came
into Debbie Worley's vending location in the Municipal Building
(across from the court building) to express their support and
came back again and again as customers. Debbie's business has
benefited, despite the threats of the police who arrested Kevan
that "We'll see how her business does now."
The day after Kevan was arrested, a Trailways spokesperson
further fanned the flames of resentment against his company by
defending its refusal to sell tickets to blind persons. As he
put it, " We don't hire drivers to take the blind to the
The police remained firm through this barrage of bad
publicity. They insisted that Kevan had kicked each officer,
thus committing two assaults. They insisted that it was Kevan
who had disturbed the peace of the bus station. And they
insisted that Kevan had resisted arrest. They insisted that
charges be filed.
The two assault charges were immediately refused. The state
prosecutor obviously didn't believe the police officers' story
that they were brutalized by a handcuffed blind man. No
prosecution there. But the city prosecutor backed the police.
After all, they are another arm of the same city government he
serves. City charges of disturbing the peace and resisting
arrest were filed against Kevan Worley, and the trial was
scheduled for January 5, l987.
Painful though it was, the Worleys hoped that this would
provide an opportunity to tell their story in court. They had
tried twice (once in the bus station and once afterwards) to file
charges against the ticket agent for violating their rights under
the Missouri White Cane Law. Nobody would touch the case. The
subject had gotten too hot to handle. Their nine-year-old son, a
thoughtful and observant child, refused to talk with them about
the incident, retreating into hurt silence. Their two-year-old
daughter started playing a game she had never played before. She
would run up behind someone, grasp both wrists, and say, sternly
and unsmilingly, "I'm police." The police department refused the
Worleys' complaint against the two officers, denying that any
wrong had been done and denying that the wedding band had been
taken. The courtroom was the only place left.
Court opened at l:00 p.m. Monday, January 5, 1987. The
Worleys waited with their son in the courtroom until nearly 4:00
p.m. while the presiding judge, the Honorable Michael Riley,
handled other cases--accepting guilty pleas and conducting three
other trials scheduled before the Worleys'. At about 4:00 p.m.,
the case of the City of St. Louis v. James Kevan Worley was
called for trial.
Anyone who has ever been involved in circumstances requiring
a blind person to stand up for his or her rights knows just what
happened next. When we assert ourselves, insist on equal
treatment, maintain that we are full and equal members of
society, many of the people around us are so astonished and upset
by the thought that they magnify and expand everything the blind
person does a hundredfold. Fellow passengers shout, swear at,
and physically threaten the blind person sitting peaceably in an
airline seat and later describe the blind person's demeanor as
loud, rude, and abusive. Potential employers become angry and
resentful when pressed to treat a blind applicant fairly and
recall the articulate blind applicant's behavior as inappropriate
and rude. The health club owner, the roller rink manager, the
horse stable master are all likely to excuse their discriminatory
behavior by insisting that the blind person did something wrong.
This is all part of the pattern, part of what people moving from
second-class status to first-class citizenship must face. It is
what Kevan Worley knew he was about to face as his trial began.
It is why the Federation, with all its support and encouragement,
means so much to Kevan and to all blind people.
The City of St. Louis produced three witnesses to show that
Kevan had disturbed the peace and resisted arrest. The three
were excluded from the courtroom except when they were testifying
so that they could not hear the testimony of the other two.
While in the hallway waiting to testify, excluded witnesses are
not allowed to speak to one another about the case. Even in this
exclusion, the witnesses against Kevan could not bring themselves
to deal fairly with a blind person. While the second witness was
testifying, the first and third were comparing their testimony
out in the hall. This showed great disrespect for Kevan and the
case involving him. But it also showed great disrespect for the
judge. When he found out, the judge almost jumped off his bench
while the city prosecutor started dropping all his books and
papers as he sought to excuse himself from this violation of the
court's order that witnesses were to be separated. When the
third witness came into court, he coolly told the judge under
oath that he had not been discussing the case in the hall, just
the other witness's grandchildren.
The testimony of the three witnesses against Kevan was like
testimony of three entirely different incidents. The first
witness, Pauline McCelleary (pronounced like the vegetable) was
the ticket agent on September 4, l986. She insisted under close
questioning that Kevan had asked for a half fare ticket and that
he had refused to provide the necessary documentation. She said
that Debbie never spoke to her and did not have a white cane.
She said that Kevan "hollered and screamed" at Debbie while he
was being handcuffed, then "hollered and screamed" at the police
as they led him out. She said that Kevan kicked each police
officer in the leg while the three were still inside the bus
station. She said that Kevan struggled as he was being led out
and kicked over an ash can. She said that Kevan held his cane by
its handle and, two separate times, leaned over the ticket
counter, waving the cane in her direction in an effort to strike
her with its end. She said he missed her both times.
After these interesting statements were made under oath, the
first police officer came to the stand. His name is Steve Holt
and he is identified in Kevan's narration as "the younger
officer." As he was testifying, McCelleary and the other police
officer were comparing notes outside. Officer Holt stated that
he was never kicked inside the bus station. He stated that Kevan
did not struggle or shout as he was led outside. He stated that
Kevan did not kick over an ash can on his way out of the bus
station. He said that anybody who said so would be mistaken.
Officer Holt stated that he was kicked by Kevan after they got
outside of the bus station. He stated that, after being kicked,
he and his partner "gently placed" Kevan on the sidewalk and that
he then knelt by Kevan until Kevan "regained his composure." He
said this took place right outside the station door, sixteen to
twenty feet from the police car. He denied using any foul
language, any threats, or any filthy sexual suggestions. He also
said that, when he and his partner first approached Kevan, they
both carefully gave their names and their titles as police
officers. He stated that each officer then permitted Kevan to
feel their badges to satisfy himself that the two were really
Officer Holt repeatedly insisted that Kevan had "resisted
the officers" while everyone was still standing at the bus
counter. He described this resistance as "tensing up" when an
officer first placed a hand on Kevan's arm. He stated that, as
soon as Kevan was told he was under arrest, he submitted to being
handcuffed without protest. He continued to refer to this as
"resisting" throughout his testimony. He also recalled, under
questioning, Kevan's holding money in his hand and asking the
officers simply to buy the tickets and resolve the matter easily
When this officer was finished, the other officer, named
William Bereitshaft (pronounced BRRR-RIGHT-shaft) took the stand.
He said that he had not been kicked inside the bus station, that
Kevan had not struggled or hollered when being led from the
station, that Kevan did not kick over an ash can on his way out,
and that Kevan had not physically resisted the officers in any
way at the ticket counter. He said that anyone who said so would
be mistaken. He also claimed that he was kicked by Kevan outside
the station, though he insisted that he was kicked two to three
feet away from the police car and twenty feet or so away from the
station door. He testified that Kevan tried to break away from
the officers, though Kevan had his hands cuffed behind his back
and had no cane. The officer said he didn't know why Kevan was
trying to break away, but that he was. He also stated that Kevan
was "gently placed" on the sidewalk to "give him time to compose
himself," though he insisted that he, not Officer Holt, was the
one who knelt by Kevan until calm returned. He also denied using
any foul language and maintained that Kevan had been told their
names and felt their badges before any conversation occurred.
Both officers insisted that they had read Kevan's rights to
him. Both officers insisted that Kevan had been trying to buy a
half-fare ticket without proper documentation. Both officers
vigorously denied that either of them had threatened anyone with
a billy club. Officer Holt even denied that he had his billy
club with him, but officer Breitschaft clearly recalled that both
officers had had their billy clubs at all times.
Kevan and Debbie both testified in accordance with their
affidavits and both added that no constitutional rights were ever
read to Kevan and no feeling of policemen's chests had been
invited by the officers or done by Kevan. Kevan told the judge
that he wouldn't even know where to feel to find a badge.
By this time, it was nearly 7:00 p.m. and the judge informed
the courtroom that he had heard enough. He dismissed both
charges against Kevan and the case was over.
Nine-year-old Jayson had come to court with his parents and
had sat quietly all afternoon waiting to testify. When witnesses
were excluded, he went into the hall with the rest. He was
scheduled to be the last witness and was still in the hall
(though the court marshal was with him because both his parents
were in the courtroom) when the judge began to rule. The judge
stated that he did not need Jayson's testimony and sent someone
to bring Jayson back inside. Jayson marched in, marched right up
the aisle, opened the gate, and was nearly up to the witness
chair before anyone realized that the youngster didn't know that
his father had already been cleared of the charges. Jayson was
finally ready to talk, was eager to talk. It was a proud day for
the son when his father was finally declared innocent by a formal
court of law.
After the case was over, people who had been in the hallway
during the trial began comparing notes with the people who had
been in the courtroom. They discovered that Officer Bereitschaft
who had sworn an oath to tell the whole truth, had then told only
a small corner of it. After Pauline McCelleary testified, she
came out into the hallway and discussed her testimony and the
entire incident at length with Officer Bereitschaft as he waited
to go inside. As she left, she mentioned that she was going to
see her grandchildren. Officer Bereitschaft quite calmly told
the judge that he had not discussed the case with McCelleary at
all. The rest of his testimony was equally truthful.
McCelleary also spent some time in the hall complaining to
the officer. She said that she had had previous complaints about
her ticket selling, but that she had continued in that assignment
until the day the Worleys appeared. After their incident, she
had been removed from ticket selling. She resented this demotion
and blamed the Worleys for it. This undoubtedly had a great deal
to do with her truthfulness under oath.
The courage and good spirits shown by Kevan, Debbie, and
Jayson Worley is the same courage and spirit shown by the other
Federationists who have been arrested and publicly humiliated
during the last two years. It is a courage based on the absolute
certainty that they were right in the stand they took. It is a
courage based on the absolute certainty that their brothers and
sisters in the Federation would stand with them.
Kevan and Debbie are stronger because they stood up for
their rights. The Federation is stronger. We are all one step
nearer to that equality of treatment we seek because of what
happened in the St. Louis bus station and the St. Louis
Every Federationist who has stood up for equal treatment and
been arrested for it has been declared innocent by the courts of
this country. But, even if every one of them had been found
guilty, they would still stand acquitted before the court of
their own consciences. Each of these Federationists has given a
deeper meaning to the words spoken so prophetically by Dr.
Jernigan in his 1973 banquet speech "Blindness: Is History
Against Us?": "Whatever the cost, we shall pay it. Whatever the
sacrifice, we shall make it. We cannot turn back, or stand
still. Instead, we must go forward. We shall prevail--and
history will record it. The future is ours."
Through the Federation, we seek a world where equal
treatment of blind persons is ordinary and commonplace. We
haven't reached that yet, and much work remains to be done. It
is certain that other Federationists will be called upon to stand
up for their rights, to suffer humiliation and even arrest for
their beliefs. Those who have already suffered have added much
to our momentum toward freedom. Others will come along to
increase the momentum even more. It is part of what we seek and
believe in. It is part of our pledge to Dr. tenBroek and to Dr.
Jernigan and to President Maurer. We will not falter. We will
not turn back. With our brothers and sisters in the Federation,
we shall prevail.
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