HOUSTON — A disabled Air Force veteran posted photos online of an MSNBC news crew blocking handicapped parking outside an early voting place in southwest Houston Tuesday.
“They should know better,” James Berrie, the veteran said.
The crew covering Texas elections at the Bayland Community Center used two handicapped spaces and one handicapped loading zone to park a camera, lights, equipment and correspondent Mariana Atencio, Berrie said.
He and his wife, Sarah, drove their van to the center for early voting. When they arrived around 8 a.m., the couple saw MSNBC blocking the only van accessible parking spot. So the Berries parked in a back lot. Cars crammed around the couple’s van left little room for Berrie’s ramp and power chair to move.
“I didn’t even know what to do or to say because I was just shocked,” he said.
Berrie, who has multiple sclerosis, said the crew agreed to move when confronted. However, 15 minutes later when the couple finished voting and returned outside the crew remained.
“They had made no effort whatsoever to move,” Berrie said. “Their job is more important than accessibility. There were so many other places to do (their live shot). But you chose to do it here. We’re like, 'No. We gotta stand up.'"
The couple asked MSNBC’s crew to move again. Even with help from a group of firefighters standing nearby nothing changed, Berrie said.
“(The MSNBC crew) kept coming back like we’ll move in two minutes,” he said. “We’ll move in like three minutes. We’re going live. We’ve got a shot. We’re going live in like three minutes. We gotta do this and we’re just like, 'No. You have to move. It’s not right. You know it’s not right.'”
Berrie’s wife said a producer even kneeled on the ground at one point and begged for more time.
MSNBC offered no comment to KHOU 11 News.
On Twitter, though, Atencio apologized.
“We made the wrong call (Tuesday) by using a disabled parking spot for our live shot in (Texas),” she wrote. “There’s no excuse. I apologize to the two people who were on their way to vote as it’s one of the most important parts of our democracy. We’d never want to jeopardize anyone’s ability to do so.”
“I’m glad that she realized that,” Berrie said. “I’m hopeful that in the future it won’t happen again.”
So Berrie shared the exchange on Facebook. He is not mad at MSNBC or the media, though. Berrie is just tired of seeing people treat handicapped parking like it doesn’t matter.