Jailed AIDS Activists Take Out Full-Page Ad in San Francisco Examiner Denying Charges Against Them
Jailed San Francisco AIDS activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli took out a full-page ad in yesterday's San Francisco Examiner, issuing a joint statement "unequivocally rejecting allegations that they stalked and threatened families of San Francisco public health officials, AIDS researchers and reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle," according to a release from ACT UP/San Francisco (ACT UP/San Francisco release 12/5). The two men are accused of repeatedly calling Chronicle reporters and public health officials at home after midnight, making threats and leaving "obscene sexual messages." Their arrests come after Chronicle employees obtained a restraining order against Petrelis and Pasquarelli. Restraining orders were granted on Nov. 28 to Jeffrey Klausner, director of STD prevention and control for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Eileen Shields, a spokesperson for the health department, and Michael Shriver, AIDS adviser to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (D) (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/29). The ad is the first in a series that will appear in the Examiner and the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly gay and lesbian newspaper. "We have never visited the homes of our accusers. Furthermore, we have never telephoned or talked to any of our accusers' children. Claims that we engaged in such appalling acts are patently false and derived from the unacceptable societal stereotypes of the big, bad homosexual that preys on little kids," the statement read. The statement went on to "reaffirm ... their commitment to non-violent direct action tactics and vowed to defend AIDS dissent and accountability." Pasquarelli, a member of ACT UP/San Francisco, and Petrelis, a well-known San Francisco AIDS activist, called for federal audits of all San Francisco AIDS programs funded by the Ryan White CARE Act and the CDC and said their goal was to "bring national attention" to the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, a CDC-backed model bill intended to be introduced by state legislators (ACT UP/San Francisco release, 12/5). The model legislation, proposed by the CDC in response to the anthrax incidents and potential bioterror attacks, would give states "broad" emergency powers, "possibly including mass vaccinations and quarantining entire communities" (American Health Line, 10/31). According to Petrelis and Pasquarelli, however, the legislation would "give health officials sweeping powers to cage citizens suspected of harboring disease, confiscate and destroy their property, monitor patients and publicize their health histories and legally force medical testing and treatment without a court order." A version of the act is expected to be introduced in January in the California Legislature by Assembly member Keith Richman (D) (ACT UP/San Francisco release, 12/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.