Hundreds march against bus fare increase: 1970
Hundreds of people march from Lincoln Park at 13th and East Capitol Streets to the East gate of the Capitol July 14, 1970 to protest an increase in the bus fare from 32 cents to 40 cents.
The march included children and young people who sang and danced their way down the street.
The 25% increase that was granted by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Commission was ostensibly because of unprofitable operations. However a financial statement filed with the commission indicated that the D.C. Transit Company had returned to profitability in May of 1970.
At the rally attended by over 500 in Lincoln Park, speakers urged resistance to the hike calling it an unfair tax on poor and working people and called instead for a reduction of the fare to 25 cents.
Rev. Walter Fauntroy told the crowd, “It is an unjust law that requires us to pay 40 cents to ride the bus. Let me tell you what we did in Montgomery, Al., about an unjust law…we marched, 50,000 strong, and we changed that unjust law that said black people had to ride in the back of the bus.
Other black leaders joined Fauntroy, including Reginald Booker, chair of the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis and the Rev. James E. Coates, vice president of the Board of Education, who led a march down the middle of East Capitol Street without a permit.
Some carried signs to “Hike to Fight the Hike” and “Free us from Chalk’s Bondage”—referring to D.C. Transit owner O. Roy Chalk.
The march leaders organized the participants into a color-coded plan of action: yellow for those committed to boycotting the buses and walking instead; green for those who will take bicycles and red for those who plan to pay only the 25 cents demanded by the protesters as a bus fare.
Fauntroy said those wearing red armbands “will go to jail nonviolently and accept the consequences” of their refusal to pay the established fare.
A subsequent rally was held the next night at what is now known as Malcolm X Park at 15th & Euclid Streets NW.
Students organized a charter service to pick up passengers along the busy H Street NE corridor.
Rev. Douglas Moore had initiated the protests as chair of the Black United Front. A number of activists led by long-time activist Julius Hobson and Pride director Marion Barry were arrested early in July.
Ultimately the protests failed when a court suit was dismissed and Congress failed to halt the implementation of the 40-cent fare.
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHskrqfbpr
Photo by Ray Lustig. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.