98 People Arrested During Protest Urging Presidential Candidates, Congress To Do More To Fight AIDS in U.S., Abroad
Hundreds of people on Thursday in Washington, D.C., held a protest calling on presidential candidates and Congress to do more to fight HIV/AIDS in the United States and developing countries, and 98 people were arrested after a "carefully orchestrated civil disobedience demonstration" outside of the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Post reports. Protestors in the march, which was organized and endorsed by dozens of AIDS advocacy groups from across the country, chanted, "Fight AIDS now" and "Bush is a jerk, condoms work" as they walked through the streets. The arrests came after some demontrators lay in the street in front of the Capitol where tour buses unload visitors. They were charged with unlawful assembly and could be fined $50 each, according to a U.S. Capitol Police spokesperson, the Post reports. Organizers said the purpose of the protest was to call on the government to do more to provide HIV/AIDS care, including increasing access to generic drugs and housing, and helping to curb the spread of the virus in developing countries and among at-risk populations -- especially non-white, low-income men -- in the United States, according to the Post. Demonstrators called on the government to appropriate "billions more" dollars for health care and research into HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention methods, the Post reports. Marchers set off alarm clocks during the arrests to demonstrate the theme of the protest, "Wake Up, Time's Up." Martin Wiley, a protest organizer from ACT UP/Philadelphia, said, "We need to get loud. We need to find a spot of anger for the loss of people to a disease that should have been cured years ago."
Targeting Political Parties
The marchers, most of whom came from out of town, first stopped at the Republican National Committee headquarters, where they shouted, "Shame, shame, shame" and criticized the party for failing to take HIV/AIDS seriously, according to the Post. The demonstrators also criticized the Bush administration for its emphasis on abstinence instead of other HIV/AIDS prevention methods, such as condom use, the Post reports. Marchers then stopped at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, where they cautioned party members that they must do more in the fight against HIV/AIDS in order to gain protestors' votes. DNC staff members circulated throughout the crowd handing out flyers outlining presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry's (Mass.) support for AIDS programs. "We are here in Washington today because our national priorities are screwed up," National Association of People With AIDS Executive Director Terje Anderson said, adding that President Bush and Congress have allocated millions of dollars toward tax breaks and the war in Iraq but have not spent enough on the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Post (Barker, Washington Post, 5/21).