Angered by gasoline shortages, truckers, motorists and residents battled police in a Philadelphia suburb yesterday in the most violent incident to date in the independent truckers' strike.
As the strike entered its fourth day, consumers faced possible food shortages, workers were confronted with layoffs and there were reports of snipers on some highways.
Locally, representatives of 11 independent truckers associations yesterday accused the federal government of ignoring their pleas for more fuel supplies and uniform cargo weight limits.
While the representatives held a Capitol Hill press conference, 150 Maryland independent truckers vowed to remain shut down until the government meets their demands.
The Levittown, Pa., incident began late Saturday when 20 truckers blockaded an intersection to protect fuel shortages. They were later joined by residents and motorists who became angry when a nearby service station closed before they could purchase gas.
Police responding to the protest were pelted by rocks, beer bottles and cans. Later yesterday, police in riot gear moved through the crowd with clubs and the protesters dispersed.
Sixty-nine persons were arrested on disorderly conduct charges and 30 people, including nine policemen were injured, none seriously.
During the weekend, snipers fired on trucks in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Utah and Idaho. No one was reported injured.
Grocers and economic analysts, meanwhile, predicted problems with food supplies and industrial shutdowns if the truckers continue their strike.
The Hershey Chocolate Co. has laid off a third of its work force in Hershey, Pa., because truckers refused to ship candy bars. An Armour meatpacking plant in Worthington, Minn., closed for lack of refrigerated trucks to ship meat.
During the press conference at the Capitol yesterday, Virgil Brenneman, representing 11 truckers associations, declared. "We face now a national crisis of unfold proportions, a crisis that lies firmly now in the lap of the government."
Seven truck fueling stations in Bear, Del. and Eikton, Md., meanwhile, remained blockaded yesterday by independent Maryland truckers.
Bob Younce, an Elkton flatbed operator, said he would continue to park his truck in front of Elkton's Bingo Truck Stop until the government "provides more than promises."
"Six years ago it cost me $38 to fill up my truck," he said. "Now it costs $140. It's definitely worth fighting."
Younce's organization, the Maryland Independent Truckers Association, voted yesterday to continue the strike during a meeting in a Baltimore suburb.