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."
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