[nfbmi-talk] Blind activist arrested at Capitol disability event

Terry D. Eagle terrydeagle at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 30 06:16:33 UTC 2015


 

Blind activist arrested at Capitol disability event

Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau 5:21 a.m. EDT September 29,
2015

 

Blind disability rights activist Joe Harcz is to be arraigned in district
court in Lansing on Friday, charged with resisting and assaulting officers.

635790532943748547-capitolsummerBuy Photo

 

Michigan Capitol(Photo: Kathleen Gray/Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo

LANSING - A blind activist for disability rights is to be arraigned in
district court in Lansing on Friday after he was arrested at an Americans
with Disabilities

Act rally and demonstration in front of the Capitol on Sept. 17.

 

The Michigan State Police say a man disobeyed orders to stay behind a
barrier at the event on the Capitol lawn and pushed two State Police Capitol
security

officers. They haven't named the man, pending his arraignment, but court
records show it is Paul Joseph (Joe) Harcz, 62, of Mt. Morris.

 

Harcz, who faces a felony charge of resisting and obstructing a peace
officer, said he didn't do anything illegal and that his rights were
violated when

he was handcuffed and dragged away.

 

"I resisted an unlawful order to violate my First Amendment rights and my
rights as a person with a disability under the ADA," Harcz told the Free
Press

on Monday. He said he went limp in a civil disobedience posture when
officers grabbed and handcuffed him, and "I did not resist arrest."

 

The event at the Capitol was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA,
landmark federal legislation that prohibits discrimination based on
disability,

imposes accessibility requirements on public facilities and requires covered
employers to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. But

a demonstration was planned

to coincide with the celebration, protesting the payment of sub-minimum
wages to people with disabilities by some of the event organizers and
highlighting

the fact the Capitol itself is not fully ADA-compliant.

 

Harcz, an outspoken critic of state disability policies who uses a white
cane, said he was there for both reasons - to celebrate the accomplishments
of

the ADA and demonstrate against its shortfalls. He pointed to a March e-mail
from the ADA Celebration's main organizer, Disability Network/Michigan CEO

Sara Grivetti, recommending that he be named to the accommodations committee
planning the ADA celebration.

 

"I was denied access and bogusly arrested for attempting to attend it, and I
was nominally one of the event 'planners!'" Harcz said in an e-mail.

 

Grivetti confirmed Monday that Harcz was invited to join the accommodations
committee "because of his specific expertise regarding accessibility as it
relates

to blindness."

 

"Any questions regarding the security, protest and subsequent arrest would
need to be directed to the Michigan State Police and the Facilities Manager
for

the Capitol," Grivetti said in an e-mail.

 

The State Police said in a news release that it had safety concerns related
to the ADA celebration and demonstration and that "barricades were utilized

to keep opposing groups separated, while allowing all in attendance to
safely express their views."

 

Harcz "was warned numerous times to not interfere with police officers," the
release said. "The suspect was arrested after he purposely crossed a
barricade

and shoved two MSP state properties security officers."

 

Video posted on YouTube shows Harcz and other demonstrators shouting "Shame
on you!" and "Let us in!" and Harcz trying to get between a line of State
Police

Capitol officers prior to the arrest.

 

Harcz denies intentionally shoving anyone. "I'm 150 pounds, and I'm blind,"
he said. "If I touched somebody, I touched them. There was all kinds of
chaos

going on."

 

Harcz, the only person arrested, said he and a few others were arbitrarily
singled out for exclusion from the event, and other protesters were able to
cross

or go around barricades to enter the ADA celebration.

 

Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan, said "it's
disturbing and ironic that the state police would set up a barrier to
prevent individuals

with disabilities from attending a celebration of a law designed to tear
down barriers for people with disabilities."

 

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660, pegan at freepress.com
<mailto:pegan at freepress.com> , @paulegan4

Source:

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/09/28/blind-activist-arr
ested-capitol-disability-event/72982496/



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