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Author Topic: ACT UP Roars Again at 20  (Read 1337 times)

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Offline gerry

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ACT UP Roars Again at 20
« on: April 01, 2007, 11:53:04 AM »
ACT UP Roars Again at 20
By: ANDY HUMM
03/29/2007

Twenty years after ACT UP's inaugural action on Wall Street protesting profiteering by pharmaceutical companies, hundreds of members and their allies on March 29 staged an emotional and angry demonstration that surged south from Manhattan's Federal Building to the statue of a bull near Bowling Green at the bottom of the island, shouting, "No More Bull! Health Care for All."

This 20th anniversary action kicked off an intensive campaign for single-payer, universal healthcare that the group intends to take to the 2008 presidential candidates.

Speakers and participants demanded lower drug costs and called for the expansion of city housing and social services access now limited to people with full-blown AIDS to include all those who test HIV-positive.

Before the day was over, about 30 activists had been arrested for staging a die-in on Lower Broadway by the bull.

Larry Kramer, whose March 1987 call to arms on AIDS at the LGBT Community Center led to the founding of ACT UP, declared at the outset of Thursday's action, "This is the first major demonstration of the new, revivified, full-of-life ACT UP."

Kramer hailed that the group "was responsible for every single treatment we have for HIV; we forced it out of the government." He also demanded "equality for gay people, people of color, and people with HIV" and once again called for withholding votes from politicians who do not support equality.

Dr. Oliver Fein of New York Metro Physicians for a National Health Care Program called ACT UP "the principal organizations that got people with AIDS access to medications and medical care," and praised the fact that it was now broadening its mission to "health care for all."

Mark Milano, an ACT UP veteran and stalwart, voiced the demand for price control on drugs, noting that pharmaceutical companies pay "three times on marketing what they do on research."

David Golden of the New York City AIDS Housing Network called for the extension of the housing and socials benefits provided by the HIV/ AIDS Services Administration (HASA) to people living with HIV.

He asked, "Why should you have to get gravely sick before receiving benefits?"

Charles King, president of Housing Works, thanked ACT UP for spawning his AIDS services group by providing seed money and personnel. He led hundreds of the agency's clients, homeless people with HIV/AIDS, in the midday march past City Hall, Trinity Church, and the New York Stock Exchange.

King also attacked City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an out lesbian who represents Chelsea and Hells Kitchen, for what he said was her opposition to opening HASA to people with HIV.

"She says it might set a precedent so that if people with HIV got housing, we might have to house people with diabetes and cancer," King said, rebutting that perspective by noting that HIV is a communicable and progressive virus that places a premium on keeping people healthy, a goal for which stable housing is essential.

King then added, "But what's wrong with housing people with diabetes and cancer anyway?"

He spoke of the tragedy of poor people with HIV "who are praying that their t-cells drop low enough for an AIDS diagnosis so that they can get housing and care." King also claimed that city numbers show that housing these people now would save money in the long run.

Quinn's office did not have a response ready by press time, but were working on a statement, which will be reflected in updates to this story.

The demonstration, coming as it did on a key anniversary, proved more an occasion for outrage and mourning than nostalgia.

"I'm sad," said Kendall Queer of ACT UP. "I stopped counting the number of people I lost at 100 ten years ago. I feel like we're going nowhere."

He was later the sole arrestee to have to be dragged to the police van, rather than allowing himself to be led away."

Jennifer Flynn of the New York City AIDS Housing Network said while she was happy about the big turnout, "20 years later there shouldn't have to be an ACT UP. We shouldn't still have AIDS around."

Flynn was pleased that the city has increased HIV prevention efforts in shelters, "but a condom is not a home."

Gay and AIDS activist Shep Wahnon said, "I was at the first ACT UP demo in '87 and I've been living with HIV for 22 years. I've lost my friends and my brother and a lover. It seems that AIDS is over for America and even the gay community. I have to remind my friends it's still around sometimes."

In front of Trinity Church, Brent Nicholson Earle remembered his first arrest there 20 years ago. He said when he finished his American Run for the End of AIDS across the country, he found ACT UP "and knew what I had to do next."

A person with AIDS himself, he said, "I feel like a holocaust survivor."

Andy Velez of ACT UP led the crowd in calling out the names of loved ones who died of AIDS and while some did, most stood muted by the enormity of so much loss, fearful of starting to shout out a list with almost no end.

Eric Sawyer, a veteran of all of ACT UP's 20 years, did start to recall them and was overcome with emotion.

"It's sad to remember the hundreds of lost ACT UP members and thousands of others I have met personally," he said. "As someone who has survived this for 25 years, I feel I have them marching with us today.

"Where are the white, middle class men today? Where is their solidarity?" asked David Powell, himself a middle-aged white guy, angrily.

Most of the demonstrators were indeed people of color.

Ty Whitehead, a white gay man with HIV visiting New York from San Francisco for the action, said, "I have a good job and can get my meds. My friends are the working poor. It is tough for a lot of people."

In front of the Stock Exchange on Wall Street, Mark Hannay, long a campaigner for universal health care, decried "the obscene salaries" of executives in insurance and Big Pharma.

"Fifty people a day die because they don't have health insurance," he said to cries of "Shame!"

Kate Barnhart, who runs the Sylvia's Place, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth housed at the Metropolitan Community Church in Midtown, said her own mother died in 1999 at the age of 56 because she was self-employed and uninsured and let her breast cancer go untreated until it was too late.

Barnhart was among those arrested in the action, as was Sean Strub, founder of POZ magazine.

Fifty body bags were scattered around the bull statue near Bowling Green where those arrests were made, "to symbolize the 50 people a day who die from lack of insurance in this country," said Ann Northrop, one of the lead ACT UP organizers of the action, reiterating the point Hannay had earlier made.

A banner demanding health care for all was hoisted on top of the bull. Roy Hayes of ACT UP Philadelphia, who has lived with AIDS since 1984, lay amidst the body bags and said, "If it weren't for ACT UP, I wouldn't be here."

The 30 people arrested for laying in Lower Broadway were relatively quickly cuffed and packed off in police vans, slowed only by the police penchant for videoing and photographing anyone who practices dissent these days.

The tableau of an ACT UP die-in was at once moving and a sickening reminder that some of the basic things the group fought for 20 years ago are still far from reality.

ACT UP will mark its anniversary with a $20 celebration/fundraiser on Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street. And the group's members will see if they can sustain this new wave of activism at an organizing meeting on Thursday, April 12 at 7 p.m., also at the Center.

(Link to article)

Offline Lisa

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Re: ACT UP Roars Again at 20
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2007, 12:14:35 PM »
Oh Yeah!
Thank you Gerry. I have been waiting to see when Andy would post something. I wish so badly that I could have been there.
In the words of one of our new veterans, Huzzah!
No Fear  No Shame  No Stigma
Happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have.

Offline Andy Velez

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Re: ACT UP Roars Again at 20
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2007, 01:19:27 PM »
It was a very fine action, very much filled with the energy and sass of old days. Although there was a lot of media there, interestingly and curiously none of the major NY dailies or tv stations ran coverage. In our conversation afterwards the consensus was that pressure from pharma companies (ie sponsorship on tv and in other media) about adverse publicity may have played a part in the odd absence of coverage. We are after all demanding price controls on drugs.

On the web there has been a huge amount of coverage and The Nation ran a powerful editorial acknowledging ACT UP's importance and contributions.

Here's a link to some of the photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/riekhavoc/sets/72157600037112795/

All in all it was a fine day's work and now we'll see how the coming weeks and months will unfold with the campaign for single payer healthcare for all.

« Last Edit: April 01, 2007, 01:21:09 PM by Andy Velez »
Andy Velez

Offline Jody

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Re: ACT UP Roars Again at 20
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2007, 01:37:50 PM »
As Andy says the rally went well and many people tried to get our points across on such important issues to so many of us...One major tabloid, New York Newsday had a small picture of the demonstration buried in the middle of the paper...There is additional discussion in the Aids Activism thread.

Jody
"Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world".
 "Try to discover that you are the song that the morning brings."

Grateful Dead

Offline J.R.E.

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  • Posts: 7,113
  • Joined Dec-2003 Living positive, since 1985.
Re: ACT UP Roars Again at 20
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007, 05:45:11 PM »
Gerry ,

Thanks for the article and Andy thanks for the pics through the link you provided. I am curious of those arrested, what is the bond set at, or,.. are those arrested later released after processing, on their own regognizance ? What ends up being the final average cost to those that are arrested. I am sure there has to be court fees involved. Is there a fund that Act-up has allocated for posting bonds, in these cases ?



Thanks-----Ray
Current Meds ; Viramune, Epzicom, 40mg of simvastatin, 12.5mg of Hydrochlorothiazide.
Metoprolol tartrate 25mg



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