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AIDS Protest at City Hall Draws More Police Than Demonstrators

One protestor dragged a replica of a big gray coffin into the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue outside City Hall. Another carried a smaller "baby" coffin. And yet another prostated himself in the middle of the street.

It was all a part of a small demonstration yesterday against what the protesters called a tepid response by the Fenty administration to the city's HIV and AIDS. A city report released this week said 3 percent of District residents are infected with the illness, constituting a severe epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.N. AIDS Office.

About 20 protesters carried placards that read "Stand Against AIDS" outside the John A. Wilson building at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. About 25 police officers on bicycles and in cruisers showed up to watch over them. Police removed the fake coffins and the protester from the street. There were no arrests.

Matt Kavanagh, who spoke on behalf of the group DC Fights Back, which staged the demonstration, called on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to declare an emergency to fight the epidemic. The protester lay in the street, Kavanagh said, to show that he was as important as a pothole. Fenty recently said he would try to patch every pothole in the city.

The protesters vowed to return to City Hall with a larger force in 40 days if the mayor does not submit an emergency plan to service people infected with HIV and AIDS and to prevent more infections.

"We have not seen any quantified vision from any of our leaders," said Larry Bryant, another protester, who said he's HIV positive. "We're not seeing any measurable urgency from our leaders."

D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown (D-At Large), who spoke with the protesters and posed for snapshots, said he might submit legislation calling for a state of emergency.

"We need public service announcements, more of an advertising campaign," Brown said. "We have to treat it like cancer is treated. In my mind, we haven't taken it to that level."

By Darryl Fears  |  March 20, 2009; 6:57 PM ET
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I would say that this coverage is a little underwhelming, I wonder if we were at the same event?
Responding to new data that shows that 3%—and likely much more—of the District of Columbia’s population is living with HIV, AIDS activists today risked arrest to confront District officials. In front of the Wilson Building, District residents living with HIV and their allies demanded that DC double the budget for HIV/AIDS related programs and create an emergency plan to tackle the epidemic.

Carrying coffins the activists then shut down traffic demanding that the mayor take people living with AIDS as seriously as he has taken pot holes in the last week.

“We will not wait any longer—we will not be silent any longer—while people in our communities continue to die from AIDS,” said Larry Bryant, DC Fights Back Co-Chair and HIV-positive DC resident. “We need a full emergency response: from testing to substance abuse treatment to housing. If the Mayor can get every pot hole filled within 24 hours we do not accept people on waiting lists for housing or DC children being needlessly born with HIV decades after this became completely avoidable.”
They noted that mayor Fenty this month announced an emergency pothole plan.
“Potholepalooza. Nine trucks, going around DC,” Fenty said announcing a new hotline and 48 hour turn around.

Activists note that people living with HIV/AIDS are waiting months on waiting lists for services they need including over 300 waiting for housing. As trucks roll out to fill pot holes, outreach efforts and HIV/AIDS programs are being cut at the Whitman-Walker clinic.

Activists demanded a clear emergency plan that identifies the gaps in the DC HIV/AIDS response, sets firm goals and timelines, and sets out the budget needed for a full response. They taped these demands to the front of the Wilson Building and gave the district 40 days to prepare the plan—until April 29th—promising they would return with larger, bolder actions beginning that day until the plan becomes reality.

Posted by: alexlawson | March 21, 2009 2:28 AM | Report abuse


I guess the International ANSWR protest was just as fruitful.

Now, go and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT instead of wrapping yourself up in victomology!


Posted by: bs2004 | March 23, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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