“We Shall Not be Moved” The 504 Sit-In for Disability Civil Rights

A June 1997 audio documentary featuring contemporary media coverage of the 504 Sit-Ins and 1997 interviews with some of the Sit-In demonstrators including Mary Lou Breslin, Kitty Cone, Judy Heumann, Ken Stein and more. (58 minutes)

The following transcription is also available to download as a Word doc.


Produced by Asata Iman

for the 504 Sit-In 20th Anniversary

Celebration and Commemoration Committee

June 1, 1997


(Music fade in…..)

Mary Lou Breslin, Demonstrator: I really believe that 504 and the ADA have had the most profound social policy impact on the U.S. of any civil rights or social policy legislation, perhaps ever. I believe that the fabric of the country is changing with respect to it’s perception and awareness and attitudes about disability as a result of these laws, and that the architectural face of the country is changing permanently.

Demonstrator: I showed up at the United Nations Plaza on the day of the demonstration, basically to show my support to my community, and I was not sure what was going to happen that day. I played it by ear, and I ended up going into the building on that day, and I didn’t come out until the last day.

Ken Stein, Demonstrator: We were very conscious that history was being made, that if there was a Stonewall of the disability rights movement, if there was a Birmingham bus boycott of the disability rights movement, this was it.

Corbett O’Toole, Demonstrator: I was sort of around the edges of, "Hey, let’s take over a federal building." I just got involved with doing it. I knew a lot of the people who went into the building, and so the day after they went in, on April 5th, sounds like that’s where I need to be, so I called my boss, said and I won’t be coming to my child care job for a while, and I really don’t know how long." And, I moved into the building with a 150 other people.

Demonstrator: My wife, myself, and our two daughters were involved in the sit in. My daughters were 8 and 7. I’m not sure how much they remember.

Daughter of previous Demonstrator: My best memories were getting to go on the shoulders of all the people in the picket line and cruising down the hallway in an electric wheelchair on the lap of my friend in an electric wheelchair in an empty federal building.

(Music fade in…..)

Demonstrator: My family and I went down to one of the rally’s they were having. And, we’re marching around, participating in the rally. We had a disabled son, so this was very close to our hearts. And, Judy Heumann had been sitting in inside. She came out to speak at the rally. She came over to see me and said that they needed more people inside, including disabled kids. And so I talked to my husband about it a little bit, and my kids, and they said fine, and so I took Adam, who was then 4-1/2 years old in his wheelchair into the sit-in. And, we sat in for about a week.

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: The thing I remember the most is our victory march out of the building into a rally. And everyone’s feeling a total empowerment because we were a group of people who society had viewed as the weak, the vulnerable, without any real resource to power. And here, we had won this tremendous victory. You heard it all throughout that day. People were saying for the first times in their lives, or for the first times since they had become disabled they felt proud of themselves. You know, "I’m disabled and I’m beautiful!" You know, that kind of thing. You know, victory is a very wonderful thing……

(Music fade in…..)

Narrator: "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States should solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded in the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

These 41 words, known as Section 504, were included in the language of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It took for five years, three presidential administrations, nationwide demonstrations, a take over of a federal building in San Francisco, California, and massive community support to get it passed into law. Section 504 was the first piece of civil rights legislation to promise an end to segregation, an end to employment discrimination, and an end to separate but equal facilities for millions of disabled Americans. The Regulations implementing Section 504 were finally written and passed during the Carter Administration. In the Spring of 1997, activists who participated in the 504 Sit-In came together to remember and celebrate the passage of Section 504. Kitty Cone, one of the primary organizers of the `77 Sit-In, is the Development Director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) in Berkeley, California.

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator at Federal Building on Anniversary: Twenty years ago, over 150 people with disabilities and our supporters, marched out of this building after occupying it for 26 days, and celebrated our victory enforcing the government to finally issue strong regulations to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Although the changes brought about over the past two decades are profound, we are still at the beginning of a long term march. We’re changing how society deals with, and responds to disability. So, on June 1st, at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, we will celebrate and salute those who have helped bring them about, remember those who have died, and rededicate ourselves to the effort so that today’s young people with disabilities can lead full productive, independent lives integrated into society. Thank you. (Applause)

Narrator: While Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act, banning discrimination against the disabled in 1973, the actual implementation was left to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. A draft of the Regulations was prepared and approved by representatives of the disabled community. Judy Heumann, one of the leaders of the 504 Demonstration, is now Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services under the Clinton Administration.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: After President Carter became President, and he appointed his Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Secretary Califano, we found out that the Regulations were in fact, not going to be signed, as they were. That there was going to be another review of them, and that we were being told from people inside, that the Regulations were going to be watered down. People were extremely concerned that the Regulations, in the form that they were, were already a compromise that had been developed over the course of the number of years with many public hearings and many meetings and negotiations with the disability community and with the recipients of federal financial assistance, mainly, as I was saying, universities, hospitals, schools, etc. And, we felt that if they were going to go and review the Regulations again, and open the process up, that the likelihood was that the different entities that had been fighting to get the Regulations watered down were going to prevail. And so, the group, under the leadership of the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, basically said, "you know, we can’t allow this to happen." And, at a board meeting of the ACDD, which I was on, the chairperson of the Board was a woman named Eunice Cerrito, and the Executive Director was a gentleman by the name of Frank Bough, we decided that we were going to set a deadline. If the Regulations weren’t signed by a date specific, then there were going to be demonstrations around the United States. And in that interim period of time, Frank and others were directed to continue to work with Health, Education And Welfare to do everything that they could to get these Regulations signed. And, in fact, when the demonstrations occurred in San Francisco and in other regions, in federal regions around the United States, there was not yet an agreement to sign the Regulations as they were, which is why the demonstrations started in the first place.

Narrator: Mary Lou Breslin is the President of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, California.

Mary Lou Breslin, Demonstrator: Well, the demonstration began with a rally, speakers, music and so on the United Nations Plaza just outside the federal building. And when the rally ended, Judy Heumann and Kitty Cone and other people urged people to come into the Federal Building to meet with the Regional Director of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, a guy named Joe Maldanaldo. So many of us, most of us, entered the building and there were at that time no guards, no security issues in the building, and we went to the 4th floor, where his office was, and I recall that he wasn’t there, but we did sort of go into his office. Pretty soon we had just entered, actually, his personal office, and we began using the telephone and making phone calls and it was sort of unclear of what was going to happen next. But, as the afternoon, early evening wore on, we had not been forced from the building by any security people, or by anybody in the building. In fact, I’m sure that who ever was there thought we were completely benign and didn’t take the whole thing in the least seriously.

(Music fade in, Demonstrators singing…..)

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: Many of the participants who came to the rally, and I assume this was true in other cities, didn’t realize there was going to be a sit in because we were afraid the word would leak out. But I think that it was really a brilliant tactic, because the….all of the power was in the hands of the government at that point. If they watered the Regulations down into something that codified segregation, and then issued them, then we would be in the position of having to respond to something that was a fete’ accomplate’. But, by having a sit-in, we sort of took the power back and said, "okay now, you respond to us." I don’t think we ever realized we were going to be in there for almost a month.

Recordings of reporters, Demonstrators, and Joseph Califano in 1973)

Recording of Demonstrator in 1973: Very definitely, the numbers are a little fewer in some of the other offices, but it did happen in nine other cities around the country. I checked with some of the people here, we made some calls in Denver, there are people sitting in the regional office right there. They plan to spend the night. In Washington, it is 9 o’clock by now, and they are also staying overnight there. And, I heard also, I believe, there are some in Seattle?

Reporter: What about the restroom facilities and that sort of thing? Are they equipped to handle that many handicapped people and could they get that help?

Demonstrator: They are absolutely are not equipped to handle them. That comes up with a very interesting story this afternoon that shows some of the people are maintaining their sense of humor. The Regional Director asked before 4 o’clock if he could try to get out of this room, because he needed to go to the restroom. And the group here said, "no, we have had to learn all of our lives to control our bladders, and you must learn that lesson, now, too. That might give you just a hint of what it’s like to be handicapped." And so, he sat here until almost 6 o’clock.

Reporter: Some of the demonstrators occupied an area outside the office of HEW Secretary Joseph Califano. When Califano appeared, he praised their cause but said there were problems such as enforcement. However, he promised action.

Joseph Califano: I will sign the set of 504 Regulations by early May. (Demonstrators shouting, "Not May, Now!!! shouting, screaming) The last administration took 2-1/2 years and decided not to move. I’ve had 2-1/2 months.

Reporter: There were more hoots and jeers when Califano left go back into his office and a bitter response from a protest leader.

Another Reporter: Annie Rosewater talked about what life for 28 million handicapped would be like if their needs and rights were respected.

Annie Rosewater: It would mean the children who have now been educated, if at all, in buildings far from their non disabled peers, would be able to go to school like normal children. It would mean that lot’s of adults, who now can’t get into buildings, children who can’t get into buildings, would be able to because building would have to change. No more stairs, no more toilets without ramps or open stalls. No more places where people who are deaf can’t pick up telephones and understand what’s happening at the other end. It would mean that people can take public transportation, get housing. People’s attitudes would start changing because now they would understand that people with disabilities also have civil rights.

Reporter: They’re tired. They’re grubby. They’re uncomfortable. But, their spirits are soaring. The sit-in in San Francisco’s HEW headquarters now is in it’s third day. And 125 disabled and handicapped are pledging they’ll continue the sit-in through tomorrow night, if not longer. The squeeze is on, though. Hot water has been turned off on the 4th floor, where the occupation army of cripples has taken over. Outside phone lines are dead. But incoming calls still work. "Use the pay phones they’ve been told." Those in wheelchairs can’t reach the pay phone. That’s part of what this argument is all about. And the Health, Education, and Welfare officials have moved to tighten security and prevent the band of disabled malcontents from growing. Judy Heumann, operating from a wheelchair, is emerging as the leader of this confrontation with HEW.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: If they have to leave to go help another person who’s not in the building…….

(Present day): I never saw myself as being the media spokesperson. I think there were a number of people, and I was definitely one of those people. I think, for me, it was another part of my life. I came from New York, where I had sued the Board of Education in New York where I had been denied a teaching credential, and wound up one day in an article in the New York Times; the next day in an editorial in the New York Times; the next day on the "Today Show." and that had all kind of happened very unplanned. So, I was, luckily, accustomed to working with the media……

Narrator: Corbett O’Toole participated in the 504 demonstration. She is Director of the Disabled Women’s Alliance.

Corbett O’Toole: Because people just literally, to some extent, showed up at the demonstration, and because even though the press was…..we were sort of blackballed for the first week, where the press wanted to cover it, but the politico’s said, shut up, don’t give them any press and they’ll go away. And then we didn’t go away, so by the time we were done, we were, like, local heroes, but for the first week or so, we were sort of pariahs– media pariahs. What was significant to me, and what was the outcome of that, was that a whole bunch of different people who had a lot of different communities that they responded to, and a lot of different issues that they were concerned about, felt totally empowered. Felt like working together in a community. I mean, I’m talking about the Mill Valley moms of a disabled child and the street junkies. So that that fact, that when the FBI said, "okay, nobody can come in and out," that a deaf person was up on the 4th floor signing to a deaf person outside, who was talking to a media person to get the word out about what was going on……you know, everybody learned that if you really want something, and if you get a group of people to fight for it with you, that you can get anything you want…..

April Harris, Demonstrator: We were away from our familiar surroundings. We became very creative in adapting the phone system……

Narrator: April Harris was one of many people who assisted disabled activists during the sit-ins.

April Harris, Demonstrator: ……the cardboard on toilet roll holders. Anything that we could get our hands on that we could make into adaptive devices……

Mary Lou Breslin, Demonstrator: Just about every evening, of the entire group of people in the building, where everything that had gone on during the day was discussed and the issues of people would need to be able to talk…….

Narrator: Again, Mary Lou Breslin…..

Mary Lou Breslin, Demonstrator: …..about, what was going to be happening next. And, those meetings were really, they were really wonderful because everybody had an opportunity to participate and talk about what they thought were important issues…..

Narrator: Ce-Ce Weekes is Executive Director of the Easy Does It Emergency Services Program in Berkeley California.

Ce-Ce Weekes, Demonstrator: We would have some very strange meals, like Hot Dog Soup, with a ketchup base. You know, that was our broth. And, white bread with mayonnaise. It sort of went on like that. But we were always….everybody was so….we were so happy to be doing what we were doing that it didn’t matter……

(Music fade in…..)

(Recordings from 1973 Sit-In)

Reporter: …..we told you that there might be a live bomb at Hyde and Golden Gate in San Francisco. David Fowler’s on the phone now, with an update on that story. David, was it a bomb.

Reporter, David Hyde: Andrew, the San Francisco police have, what they say, neutralized a very large bomb that was thrown through a glass window at the Social Security Building at Hyde and Golden Gate. This is about 1/2 block away from where the HEW sit-in is going on.

Reporter: The handicapped demonstrators admitted this afternoon that they are dismayed by the attempt of a local terrorist organization to claim part in that action. The terrorists called for a "rock and bomb" attacks on government buildings and officials. Spokepersons for the sit-in demonstrators repudiated the tactics by the N.W.L.F.

Demonstrator: I don’t think these people know anything about disability or what we really want. I have a feeling they’re using us in an exploitive way as propaganda. They have not made real contact with disabled people and found out what we’re really working towards.

Other Demonstrator: We categorically condemn any acts of terrorism. This a completely……

Present Day…..

Demonstrator: We realize that anybody who was our friend was not going to put a bomb in the building. So, we discussed it very seriously. And, we informed people about it and we just made the decision that we were going to stay there because we didn’t believe it was for real.

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: Even if you get another bomb threat and they say you have to leave this building?

Demonstrator: They’ll have to take us out…..

Congressman George Miller, Jr.: I realize the sacrifice and how difficult it is for you people to stay here, but I think it’s very important, because either we’re going to carry out the law, or we’re not going to carry out the law…….

Reporter: That’s the Congressman from Contra Costa County, George Miller, Jr. is the first elected federal official to show up at the sit-in by the handicapped at the San Francisco offices of Health, Education and Welfare…..

Congressman George Miller, Jr.: …..If Joe Califano wants to violate the law, I assume that these people and lot of other people will take him to court. The law is very clear.

Reporter: What can Congress do……

Congressman George Miller, Jr.: Well, I would assume that certainly the Bay Area delegation, you know, when we go back to work tomorrow, we’ll get on the phone and tell Joe Califano that this isn’t allowable under the law. He can’t do this. This is what Richard Nixon used to do.

Reporter: Caught and squeezed by the demonstration, HEW Director Regional Director Joe Maldanaldo is hopeful that the protest is running out of steam. But the occupation army in wheelchairs shows no signs of calling it off.

HEW REGIONAL DIRECTOR JOE MALDANO: I have responsibility to handicapped people, and I’ve tried to be as fair as I could about carrying out that responsibility. I also have the responsibility of conducting the business of the federal government in this agency……

Reporter: Support continues to grow for the band of 120 stalwart citizens who are inside the building. There approximately 75 of their supporters who are on the outside. They can’t get in, the doors are barred to them. And, I’m told that they expect more and more to show up on the outside of this building in each successive day of this sit-in.,

Another Reporter: Congressman Phil Burton who negotiated for them greater access in and around the building that they’re sitting in. Also got them some phone lines to get medical and nutritional assistance and he also gave them his unqualified support.

Another Reporter: Congressman Burton announced he and democrat George Miller would hold hearings in these offices on Friday…..

Another Reporter: The protesters said they will sit here until Califano signs the Regulations. And, they say they’re upset at President Carter. They feel he’s broken his promises to disabled people……

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: In September of last year, he made a statement publicly that he abhors the Board of Administration’s lack of enforcement around 504 and his administration would be different. And now his appointee, Califano, in fact is proposing changes to those Regulations that would make them much weaker than what the Republicans are proposing, and that many of us worked very hard on the campaign for Carter. We really broke our backs to get this man elected, and we feel that we are being thrown away, and we will not stand for that.

Reporter: Burton said he’s been joined in the action by other Bay Area congressman, including his brother, John Burton, Pete Stark, and Ronald Dellums. That means, of course, that the demonstration will keep going, at least until Friday. The demonstrators, today, that their fellow demonstrators called off their building occupation last Friday, only after a call from the White House. So, it appears that the demonstrators are having some impact both on Congress, and on the President.

Reporter: A group of handicapped people just took over the State Rehabilitation Building in Eugene, OR. I understand that you have on the phone Peter La Bosse, the general counsel for HEW Director, Joseph Califano.

Another Reporter directing question to General Counsel of Joseph Califano: Question is, whether change is contemplated in Regulation 504, some ink changes, are actually going to water down the effect of this Regulation. Can you respond to that please?

General Counsel: We are reviewing the Regulation that was left by the last administration unsigned to decide what are the basic issues involved in those Regulations, and whether or not we want to make any changes. It’s our intention to be sure that the Regulation that is issued is strong, that it is enforced, and that it brings about equality of opportunity for handicapped individuals. We do not intend to water down the Regulation.

Reporter: Are you contemplating specific changes, for example, the Regulations may not apply to new buildings, or that waivers may be granted.

General Counsel: We’re considering many changes in the Regulation. We want to make sure that they’re fair and that they’re enforceable. But, until we’ve completed that analysis and have gotten the Regulations out, it’s a little difficult for me to discuss particular changes. Issues such as whether the Regulation should cover alcoholics and drug addicts; issues about pre-employment inquiries; issues about employment opportunities, and a host of them, including new construction and other issues. Those issues are being resolved over the next 2 or 3 weeks, and we hope to have a set out in early May.

Reporter: …..Ms. Heumann, do you think, apparently, they haven’t made any decisions on those 8 specific changes that you contend are going to water down the law.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: I really and sorry you hung up on Mr. La Bosse. The eight changes that I gave you last week were dictated by him to the American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities. I totally understand the fact that none of these are final, and the reason why we are here is to make sure they are not final. However, the changes that they are talking about, whether they are 8, or now I hear 25, in no way would strengthen the Regulation. I find it rather preposterous and insulting to find that the Secretary of HEW is proposing to eliminate drug addicts and alcoholics as a protected class of disabled individuals. In fact, these persons are discriminated against daily, and in fact, are handicapped……

Can I interrupt on that. I don’t think, to get the record straight, that he said that they’re considering eliminating these people, or that they are eliminating. He said that to one of the questions they’re considering.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: Okay, I think it’s important the language that’s been put out over the last couple of weeks, as far as we’re concerned, is very deceitful, and is not being clear. You specifically asked him about watering down the Regulations and he got into a whole long diatribe about how they’re reviewing the Regulations……

Reporter: Is the administrator concerned about the costs, what costs would be involved in enforcing this law?

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: That’s what the Administration is saying. I find that rather interesting, since unemployment in this country is very, very high, and in part, what enforcement of 504 would mean, is that for example, teachers would be put back to work; paraprofessionals would be put back to work; persons in the construction industry would be put back to work, taken off of welfare.

Reporter: Are you going to be speaking directly to Califano? Are some arrangements being made to do that?

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: Peter La Bosse was supposed to call me on Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday to let me know whether or not that phone call was going to go through, and he has not called us.

Reporter: Okay. How much longer are you going to stay here?

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: Well, I can tell you that the residents from Berkeley today filled out their forms to do absentee voting for the election next week. So we will be here through next Tuesday, at least…..

Another Reporter: With one unified voice the disabled of California said today we have wasted……

Narrator: As the protest neared it’s second week, community support continued to grow. Some state and local politicians moved by the passions of the demonstrators, lent their support to get the legislation signed.

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: It is nearing two weeks since 150 handicapped people moved into the HEW offices, and it was today, in response to that occupation, that a special congressional hearing convened. But what today’s testimony pointed out that clearly and painfully is that 504 is not just a right’s issue, but a moral one.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: We absolutely obliterated the discussion around consortia. And there was absolutely around that issue, that we would not allow discussion to go on any longer. We listen to you……

Eugene Ivenberg, HEW Official Spokesperson from Washington: I hear you……

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: You do not hear me! ……

Reporter: These remarks are being addressed to HEW’s official spokesperson from Washington, Eugene Ivenberg. And he listened, witness after witness spoke about the disjointed dehumanizing system of services offered to this country’s disabled. They spoke of the hope that they had when 504 became law 4 years ago, and now of the utter frustration and the fact that the bill for the handicapped civil rights is unsigned.

The fact that they now have to demonstrate, in what I regard as still, a demeaning way of having to show what they are entitled to is really a mark of, if not rath, at least rage, against this Administration at a period of time, when it enjoys an extraordinary amount of support from the American People.

Reporter: Ed Roberts, California State Director of the Department of Rehabilitation, summed up the handicapped community’s feelings of their struggle for their basic human rights.

Ed Roberts: I felt so unhuman and so dehumanized and so worthless and I’ve seen in my own example, what can happen when you begin to feel pride in yourself and you begin to realize how much power and strength there is in the disability itself. How much I’ve learned about myself. About how human people can be, when a government like ours sets the tone, because we can legislate morality…..

***** end of Side One****

Demonstrator: …..and I’m sure you saw by the film there was a lot of emotion stirred up there. Phil Burton looked as if he were very close to tears and did cry……

Phil Burton: I hope the hearings organized by Congressman George Miller today will prove to focus even more attention on the imperative nature of this Regulation guaranteeing the civil rights to our fellow citizens who are handicapped to be signed in to law at the earliest possible moment.

Reporter: Are you going to be applying direct pressure to either Califano or the White House?

Phil Burton: You’d better believe it. You’d better believe it.

Reporter: He might be the mayor of San Francisco, but it wasn’t for George Moscone and other city officials on federal turf today. They came to the HEW offices to endorse and assist the handicapped. For 13 days now, over 100 protestors have camped in at the Regional offices. They have sworn not to leave until a new bill is signed, which directly the quality of their daily lives. The mayor, his chief administrator, and the Director of San Francisco General Hospital brought more than just sympathy. A truckload of towels, medicines, and other items were brought to the protestors. But the federal officials drew the line when it came to installing a device which converts a sink into a makeshift shower. And that’s where the Mayor and his delegation discovered the limits of their authority. When officials said no deal to the showers, the Mayor personally argued the point with the Regional Director by telephone. The mayor lost.

Mayor Moscone: They can’t give any permission for the showers.

Reporter: What was his reasoning?

Mayor Moscone: He’s not running a hotel.

Reporter: While security officers on the spot tried to find a diplomatic way to turn off the showers, the protestors took advantage of one of the necessities they have gone without for nearly two weeks. This battle over showers may seem insignificant. But the handicapped have been here for 13 days, just another sign in their uncompromising position in trying to bring attention to a legislative problem that’s been going on for three years.,

Mayor Moscone: I can’t imagine that there’s a big disruption in the public business by allowing them to hook up two little tubes to the hot and cold tap in a public restroom. Why we would make literally, a federal case, out of something as minimal as this, is something that’s just beyond my powers of comprehension.

Reporter: Meanwhile, back at the bathroom, a line was forming on this hot spring day and the man charged with getting rid of the dreaded shower, Tom Purvis, didn’t seem thrilled with the idea of throwing naked people out of the shower.

(Music fade in…..)

Narrator: A decision was made to send a delegation to Washington, D.C. They would rendezvous with other activists, and increase the pressure on President Carter and Secretary Califano.

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: According to FAA Regulations, an aircraft crew must be capable of evacuating passengers within 90 seconds of an emergency. For that reason, many airlines don’t even sell tickets to handicapped passengers. But beginning next month, the FAA will prohibit airlines from denying passage to the handicapped.

Narrator: Television reporter, Evan White, recalls the effect the 504 Demonstration had on him, and other members of the media.

Evan White: I supposed I had, like anyone in the media and everybody in society, went into this with a…..not a clear understanding of the issue, of what civil rights issues were involved here for the disabled. We had to be educated, along with the general public. And that’s what the sit-in started to do. It’s not a matter of curb cuts; it’s a matter of kids who are disadvantaged, disabled rather, getting education that isn’t segregated and second rate, of being mainstreamed. Mainstreaming into the whole society; accessible transportation so people could have jobs and go shopping, and go……you know, none of us really sat down and gave it a hell of lot of thought. Until it was put in our face and we had to pay attention and listen. So, it was a learning process for it all. And I think, at least in San Francisco, not just for me, but for the news media in general, they’re quick learners, and they had a built in sensitivity to learning this quickly because we’d been through so many righteous demonstrations and civil rights movements. And, there was a fairly sympathetic mentality ready and willing to be educated and to come aboard.

When I went to Washington, it was 100%, the sit-in. Because while we didn’t live in the church basement with them, we were there day and night. It was everyday. It was every day. It was almost 24 hours a day of covering the same story. A very intimate relationship grew out of that. There’s a number of stories, if you have time, that go to my most memorable recall, because there were too many things that were astounding.

After an exhaustive flight, and dealing with the disabled getting out of airports and into this rickety old U-Haul, with an hydraulic electric lift behind and a roll down door, the first place, we got there in the evening, they didn’t go the church and go to bed and have a meeting and get some rest. They immediately took the truck out to Joseph Califano’s house, the Secretary of HEW who was sitting on these 504 Regulations and was refusing to sign them, and, they feared, was dicking around with them.

We get there 11 or 12 o’clock at night. It was on a cul-de-sac in an very exclusive part of town. The truck pulls up, the sliding door rolls up, and on the hydraulic lift come down the disabled, who immediately a circular candlelight vigil with the candles in their hands and not making any noise. Within ten seconds the first houselight came on, and within 30 seconds, all the lights were on, in 40 seconds, there were three police cars on us. You don’t show up in Joe Califano’s neighborhood without the police being there very quickly. They didn’t know what to do. They pull up, hearing all these neighbors calling and complaining about this invasion and they find people with disabilities in wheelchairs and on crutches and canes walking in a circle with candles and not saying a word.

They asked what was going on. It was explained to them they wanted everybody to leave; everybody refused. They didn’t know what to do. They finally backed their car away and spent the rest of the night watching us. Come dawn, 7 o’clock if I recall, the contingent of the group decided to go wake up Joe Califano, interrupt his breakfast, and see if he’ll talk to use. They went up to the door, we were with them a camera, of course……..

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: Their efforts were frustrated……

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: …..Mary, please open the door, I cannot get up your steps.

Mr. Califano requests that you leave. This is private property, so consequently we’re going to have to ask you to go back down the circle…….

Back to Evan White talking to Narrator:

Evan White: They couldn’t have gone out the front way, which is the only way out of his house, because we were there all night. It turns out, in fact, he did leave. He had gone out the back door and ran through the forest, the woods behind his house to get away so he didn’t have to confront anybody. It was awesome!

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: What’s the situation right now?

Reporter answering: Well, it’s good news, and it’s very new. As a matter of fact the demonstrators, Van, don’t know it yet as far as I know, but I’ve just been talking to Philip Burton’s office, and final touches are being readied and put into shape for a meeting that is expected to take place, tomorrow, between the demonstrators, and believe it or not, one Mr. Califano.

Another Reporter: The problem of the disabled were brought to life here, today, as those confined to wheelchairs, tried to function in the Federal Office Buildings. Restrooms were found to be inaccessible. But the group accepted the frustrations with a bold sense of conviction to righting these wrongs. With spirits running high, they met with Senator Alan Cranston, asking that he continue his fight for 504, which he co-authored. Cranston was impressed with the group’s organization. He told them he has contacted the White House and HEW, urging that Carter and Califano meet with the group. But Cranston believes their message is being heard regardless of face to face…….

(Back to 1997 interview)

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: Boy, that was one period of intense activity. Probably, one of the high points for me was…..it wasn’t just one moment, it was the incredible support that we got from the International Association of Machinists Union. They lent us their international headquarters to organize rallies out of; some of their vice presidents were driving us around in a Ryder truck from one place to the next; they threw a huge banquet for us; they fed us; they were just incredible to us! It was such an example of community support and it felt so good to be working with them.

Another moment that was really just imbedded in my memory was our meeting with Senator Alan Cranston. Two of the original signers of the legislation were Harrison Williams and Alan Cranston, and we met with both of them. And, Cranston had the list of the administration’s proposed changes to the Regulations, which we thought were really wrong. So, Senator Cranston met with our contingent, as well as Frank Bough, who was the Director of ACCD, the Coalition, who is a deaf man. And, he went down the list of issues–there were maybe ten of them–one by one. And, he said, "well, what about this?" And, our contingent was so well educated on the issues that in front of banks of national television crews, we were able to turn him around, point by point. And every single objection that he raised, somebody different in the group answered him. And he was changing his opinion on these issues, point by point. And then at the end Frank Boughs said something like, "Senator, we’re not even 2nd class citizens; we’re third class citizens." And at that point, we were so exhausted because we hadn’t had any sleep for days, that we all started to cry. I remember that……

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: Evan, what about the meeting with Califano. Earlier, they said they didn’t care to meet with him, but is that how it stands now?

Evan White, Reporter: Well, that was an attitude expressed, and it’s not necessarily everyone’s. It’s my understanding that there’s been many attempts to arrange a meeting with Califano, and they’ve failed. It’s also my understanding that Califano, now, doesn’t have a desire to meet with them. He apparently was quite angered by the vigil of the handicapped in front of his house last night.

Reporter: But the news closer to home was not so good. Guards at the Federal Building have informed demonstrators this evening that any of the handicapped who leave the building will be locked out.

Demonstrator: My understanding was that any demonstrator that left the building for any reason whatsoever, including for medical reasons, would not be allowed back in…….

(Back to 1997 interview)

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: Well, I had personally felt that it was important for us to have a meeting with the Secretary. And, it seemed to me that when the Regulations were signed, with all of the support that we had had from the Congress and other democrats, it would have been a good gesture to have a meeting with us. And he was unwilling to meet with us. I think he talks about the 504 activities today in a positive way. He sees himself as having played an important role in getting this 504 Regulations out. So, if we look at it over a longer term, I’m very happy to hear that he feels good about what happened under his Administration. And I do very definitely remember thinking that this is really not a good way to conclude this……

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Reporter: …….came to see HEW Secretary, Joseph Califano. The last time a group of the handicapped came to this building, it was only three weeks ago, they staged a sit-in……

(Back to 1997 interview)

Evan White, Reporter: One particular day, they decided to go to some of the federal buildings, especially Joe Califano’s, and see if they could get audience with him. And when they saw the group coming up the sidewalk towards the front doors, big, huge, glass doors, they immediately locked the doors, and posted armed, huge, tall guards in front. And Judy and the others, in a wedge form, just turned on the juice in the power chairs and rammed the doors! These great big guards didn’t know what to do about that, either. They were shocked! They didn’t know how to respond. They finally decided their best defense was to kick the chairs. So here, our video shows Judy Heumann and the others ramming the doors and these great big guards kicking their chairs. They looked wonderful…….

(Recordings from 1973 504 Demonstration)

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: ……I cannot believe it!

Reporter: When they were denied entrance at the main door, they tried the next door down the line. And met with the same reception. They even tried the garage driveway entrances, but the police weren’t in wheelchairs and were there to greet them…..

Police: Alright, you can’t go pass that door……

Reporter: The handicapped came to Washington hoping they’d get audience with the President or the Secretary of HEW. It doesn’t look likely that’s about to happen, but they are going to stay and keep trying anyway…….

(Demonstrator’s singing…….)

Another Reporter: They finally collapsed in fatigue back at the building where Califano’s office is located. There they were turned away from using the bathrooms or getting a drink of water. So, they rested outside, watched by police……

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: …..and I am absolutely mortified that President Carter is allowing this to go on. His open door policy certainly is not very open. And to have these big six foot, seven foot cops standing there, with people my size is the most lubricous thing that I have ever been involved in, just because we want to sit down with the Secretary and ask him what changes he’s going to make in the Regulations…….

Reporter: As the end of this long and tiring week came for the Coalition, the decision has been made not to go home, not just yet; to stay here; to try and organize a national demonstration to try and convince Secretary Califano to hear their pleas…….

Another Reporter: It’s now the 20th day of that protest. But in Washington, D.C., they did more then just sit in today. A group of 35 to 40 of those protestors took their demonstration to the First Baptist Church this morning where President Carter was attending church services……

Reporter: President Carter’s church is about 4 blocks from the church where the handicapped have been staying, close enough for them to make the journey under their own power. When they got there, police and Secret Service let them know they could get no closer than across the street. They came here with a real, if unrealistic hope, that the President would take the time to come across and perhaps, talk to them. And listen to their plea that pending anti-discrimination Regulations be kept strong. But when he arrived, it was apparent, that wasn’t about to happen. And the assumption of the group of 2 dozen handicapped was that he’s using the side entrance of the church for the first time ever with a very clear message to them, that President Carter had no intention of getting close.

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: ….. I am speechless. I cannot believe that he was unable to go into the front of the church because 20 of us are sitting across the street with signs. I wish I knew the politics behind this situation……

Reporter: Then, the service was completed. The President, this time, used the church’s rear door completely out of sight of the contingent of the handicapped in front. The presidential car did pass by the group as it sped away……

Reporter: Rosalyn Carter did wave out the back window. But the President’s decision to go out the back door and not acknowledge the group’s presence was naturally met with frustration and disappointment by those here. As one just mentioned, "We’re used to that. The President didn’t want to hear what we had to say; at least he knows we’re here…….

Evan White, Reporter: Well, the immediate reaction after the Carter motorcade past by, Valerie, was that most of the people standing there were crying. It was one of the toughest situations we’ve been in, in terms of emotion. Not one person on that line believed for a minute that that was the reason he went out the side door, and it’s pretty hard to accept that as a realistic reason, given the consideration that the President is fully aware of this contingent, has been ever since they’ve been here, and there’s a lot of heat being put on Capital Hill, the HEW offices, and the Congressman. So, he knew they were there. And I don’t think if he wanted to test doors, he would have chosen this day to do it.

Reporter: Just fill us in. Just a personal aside on this. Why are they being ducked? Why is everyone so afraid of a handful of handicapped people from California back there?

Evan White, Reporter: What happens in a political town like this is apparently, someone like President Carter, who appointed Joseph Califano only very recently, is not about to do or say anything to cast dispersions on his own appointee; for getting embarrassment on that appointee. He’d rather do nothing at all; just walk away from the topic then deal with it because he is not going to indicate to anybody that he made a mistake or that his appointee made a mistake.

Reporter: …..So we get caught up in what is known as political protocol……

Evan White, Reporter: And this is the whole world, here……

(Music fade in…..)

"Do you see me as an equal?

In your eyes, do I unfold?

Do you see me for the person that I am?

Do you see me as an equal?

Free of labels, names and signs?

I’m living well and whole here in my plan.

They say don’t judge the books just by their cover.

How can we do less by our sisters and brothers?

For we are truly equal;

One spirit just the same;

Let’s love each other as we are;

Living on this plain….."

Narrator: As the contingent to Washington D.C. made their way home, the long awaited decision came down……

Reporter: Good afternoon. Well the question now is, will the three week old handicapped demonstration come to an end? Those protestors heard the news, this morning, that their handicapped rights Regulations finally had been signed in Washington, D.C. Still, at their HEW protest site in San Francisco, this was their immediate reaction:

Hearing Impaired Demonstrator: I’ve heard from Washington, D.C. from concerned _______________ that 504 has been signed!

Reporter: But then the mood turned to apprehension, since the group had received no word as to what was in those newly signed Regulations. And, according to HEW Secretary Joseph Califano, the Regulations he has signed will cause a mini revolution among schools, colleges, and other recipients of federal funds. Califano says they will be required to make all of their programs available to the handicapped. All new buildings and facilities must be readily accessible to the handicapped, and they must be free of architectural barriers. The program also requires that federally funded programs in existing buildings must be made accessible to the handicapped within three years time.

Reporter: The Regulations signed today is not the unchanged version sought by these demonstrators, but they feel it is the first, most important step toward that goal…..

Demonstrator: The alcoholics and drug addicts are still in. There’s no waiver on architectural accessibility requirements. There’s a three year limit for old buildings to be made accessible……

Reporter: The sit-in here continues, and will until those of this group who took their case to Washington return.

Reporter: What do you think?

Demonstrator: I think that it’s a hell of an accomplishment. We did it! We did it by ourselves! We did it with love. We will continue to fight for the implementation. We will not stop. But as for now, I love it!

Reporter: It was promptly at 12 noon when the protestors rolled and walked their way out of the building.

(Singing and chanting)

Reporter: There was a slow march across Civic Center Plaza, and then the group gathered for one, final rally.

Another Reporter: …..but the real star of the Rally was Kitty Cone, one of the protest leaders who went to Washington, and came home triumphant.

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: (Shouting to the crowd): And did we show commitment!

Crowd: Yes!!!!!

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: And did we show power!

Crowd: Yes!!!!!

Kitty Cone, Demonstrator: We did! We did! We showed strength and courage and power and commitment in the face of government ignorance and inhumanity and deceit and closed doors. We persisted along with all of our beautiful supporters. And we won the victory, by God!!! Nobody gave us anything!!!!!

Crowd: YEAH!!!!!!!

(Music fade in…..)

Demonstrator: Well, the day that we came out was really a glorious day. After being inside so long, we came out to the day and it was a fresh beautiful day and it was absolutely brilliant. And there were rolls of people lined up on each side that made us a little pathway we went through……

Hearing Impaired Demonstrator: Wow! I felt that we did something for ourselves and I was very proud to be a part of it.

Demonstrator: I was so glad the protest was over, after 25 days and 25 nights. At that time, I had two little girls who needed me at home. When it was over, I was relieved. Back to normal life……

Ce-Ce Weeks: So, yeah, that day coming out into the sunshine, it really felt like it was a real breath of freedom, that we had rally accomplished something big. I guess you know, from there, I think a lot of people felt that there was no turning back……

(Music fade in…..)

Ken Stein, Demonstrator: All of us really have reason to be proud, and a whole lot of reason to celebrate, now. It’s absolutely no exaggeration to say that we each have participated in, and been an intrical part of the one greatest, and really one of the most successful people’s movements of the 20th Century.

(Music fade in…..)

"keep your eye on the prize…..

They held on……

Demonstrator: That kind of a hands on political education; I think was a really significant outgrowth. And really, in a lot of ways, contextualized the disability movement as a civil rights movement……

(Music fade in…..)

Corbett O’Toole, Demonstrator: I think that for me what was really significant was that we were this very diverse group of people; many of whom didn’t know each other. A whole bunch of people saw the demonstration on T.V. and just showed up and moved into the building with us. It was parents with disabled kids who traditionally not encouraged to know disabled adults. It was deaf adults; it was people with blindness; it was people with physical disabilities; it was this wild and diverse and divergent community of people. And I think that was really striking was a couple of things. One is the way we made decisions, which was just sat around and talked about stuff and made decisions that way, which really freaked out the F.B.I., because they kept trying to say, "Where’s your leader! We want to take them away!" And so they were sort of very flipped out that we just sort of were able to evolve, and discuss, and just trust each other that we were going…..that the work would get done and that we could made decisions in this sort of…..sort of structured, collective way, where everybody got listened to, but we really sort of decided things by consensus. So, that kind of legacy, that taught me that the sit-in, 504 Sit-in taught me that just sitting around as a group and listening to each other and coming to consensus about whatever we needed…..that was important to us and moving on what we all felt ready to move on, and ignore what we all felt ready to ignore, was powerful social change. I mean, a bunch of cripples took over a federal government building; we hold the U.S. record for occupation of a federal building!…….

Judy Heumann, Demonstrator: We wanted to get the American Public to understand that they shouldn’t be thinking of us as objects of charity or pity, and that the primary way that many people had interacted with disabled individuals was to give money to charities. And the purpose of giving monies to the charities was to prevent the poor, helpless, helpless cripples, and it’s a paradigm that we wanted to change, and are still fighting to change. We want people as disabled people who are like anybody else, and that if barriers are removed, we are able to participate more effectively within the community like anybody else…….

Corbett O’Toole, Demonstrator: …..People still talk about it as if it was some very serious thing. And really, we had a blast! It was a lot of fun! It was a lot of fun to sort of get woken up in the middle of the night by the FBI, and realize…..and they were telling you that of course, there was some fire drill or of course, there was horrible thing, and go, well you know, if we die, we die, and go back to sleep……

Evan White, Reporter: I think that people who decide to take their own fate into their own hands are the noblest of all and I think that’s the only way real change is made, I mean, little revolutions. And I hope, like has happened, perhaps, in the civil rights movement, that young, disabled youngsters coming up today are aware of what went on to get things where they are, today, and how much more there still is to do…..they don’t lose that fervor, because it’s still there in the community. And it’s a wonderful thing to see!

(Music fade in…..)

"We keep our eye on the prize…..

We’ll hold on.

Eleven years have rolled on past that door……

Narrator: This program was produced and engineered by Asata Iman, Commissioned by the 504 Sit-In 20th Anniversary Celebration committee. Narration by Jennifer Berkeley. Some of the interviews were conducted by Mary Bishop, Travis Lee, Jeannette Rosh, Abby Rose, and Jennifer Berkeley. The archival tape is part of the Ken Stein Audio Collection. Music by Jeff Moyer.

(Music fade in…..)

"Keep your eye on the prize, hold on!"

For Civil Rights, we’re standing knocking at our door,

and Reagan, you know, he won’t stand for 504.

We gotta keep our eye on that prize (alright this is the last time)

Hold on! Hold on! We’re gonna hold on!

We’re keep our eye on that prize,

We’re keep our eye on that prize,

We’re keep our eye on that prize………

* * * * * END OF TAPE * * * * * *

(Transcription services provided by Suzanne Scott)