The Sexist

AIDS Activists: Arrest “Went Smoothly”

This morning, 26 national AIDS protesters were arrested under the Capitol building's rotunda. At least four of the parties charged with "unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct" hail from the District's own activist community.

At 10 a.m., the protesters convened in the building, chained themselves together with a white chain, and demanded that Congress recognize the need to fund the fight against AIDS. They then "marched in a circle before lying down on the floor."

Capitol Police confirmed that "11 men and 15 women were charged." Though the full names of all protesters haven't been released, the activists belong to a coalition of five national groups, including a couple of organizations with D.C. offices: DC Fights Back and Housing Works.

A call to the D.C. Housing Works offices found all three regular staff members currently tied-up in the legal scuffle. The office's summer intern, Summer Sterling, was on-hand to answer the phones. Sterling confirmed that Larry Bryant, who serves as a co-chair of DC Fights Back and a National Field Organizer for Housing Works, was under arrest; two other Housing Works employees were busy monitoring the process and handling media inquiries. Though Sterling wouldn't comment on how involved she was in the planning of the protest, she did say that she "one-hundred-percent expected [the activists] to be arrested."

Housing Works' Christine Campbell, who had accompanied the activists to the protests, confirmed that at least four locals were among the 26 arrested activists. She, too, registered little surprise with the Capitol Police reaction. "We took that risk," she said. "We knew we were going to be chaining ourselves together in the Capitol, so."

Campbell says that the arrest "went very smoothly"—especially after police realized that Campbell was on-hand as "legal support for the group." At that point, Capitol Police cleared the rotunda, issued a warning to the protesters, and then arrested them.

Photo by Kyle Rush, Creative Commons Attribution License

  • Former Staffer

    Seriously? They can't exercise your First Amendment outside the Capitol, they have to cause a scene/security incident inside and make it more difficult for the Legislative Branch to work? They wasted tax dollars and time, not just theirs, OURS. For what? A little press?

    Sorry the billions we've spent on AIDS research and prevention hasn't found a miracle yet, but we haven't cured cancer yet either. And how many cancer patients do you see chaining themselves together in the Rotunda acting like fools? None.

  • DC Fights Back

    Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, without resorting to physical violence. It is one of the primary tactics of nonviolent resistance.

    The point of this action is to put the Obama administration on notice, they can't promise to repeal the ban on syringe exchange, and then not put an ounce of effort into it. They can't expect us to be cool with the fact that they removed the promise from the website, now that it is tough to take that stand.

    Syringe exchange saves lives, 3% of the DC population is infected with HIV and it is time for our leaders to act like leaders and do what is right.

    Sorry former staffer no sympathy here, I am sure that in your time on the Hill you wasted more of my tax dollars being paid while you did no work, than this protest cost me.

  • Former Staffer

    No need to get personal.

    Guess what else saves lives ... not using drugs.

    You can put the Obama Administration on notice protesting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The Capitol Rotunda is the wrong branch of government if you're trying to get Obama's attention.

  • dc resident

    former staffer, it amazes me that you seem blind to the the staggering disparity in funding for treatments and research for a disease that is essentially preventable — a disease whose effects are largely divided among socio-economic boundaries. it doesn't, however, surprise me that a hill staffer would draw an asinine comparison to spout bigoted beliefs about who our government should be protecting. what do youdo to make your community a better place?

  • Lindy Thursday

    I have to agree with Former Staffer. There is a way to get your point across without acting like a bunch of children throwing a fit.

    As Former Staffer said, we haven't found a cure for Cancer. Heart Disease is the number one killer of Americans and there is still no cure for the common cold.

    Our country spends more on AIDS than any other nation and yet you still find time in your busy schedule to go act like a fool on Capitol Hill. Sorry, you're not helping your cause.

  • http://deleted dc resident

    with such logical and relevant arguments like "children throwing a fit" and "still no cure for the common cold", I'm bowing out of this as a total waste of my time.

  • Lindy Thursday

    DC resident, you've just provided us with an example of someone who can't support their argument. So instead of engaging in intelligent discourse, you're taking your toys and going to play elsewhere.

    There are a lot of moving parts to this debate.
    What is currently being done to research AIDS?
    Why should AIDS get more attention than Cancer?
    Why should we willingly fund a syringe program that only compounds the problem of drug use?
    Where is the additional money supposed to come from?

    These are all solid questions that need to be answered by AIDS advocates before you can get everyone behind your cause.

  • Former Staffer

    I didn't say I don't support AIDS research dollars dc resident. I said the message, allegedly aimed at Obama's lack of movement was conducted in the wrong place. Are there even ever any Members of Congress in the Rotunda? Not really...mainly tourists. MoC's use the upper hallways to speed their passage between House and Senate.

    Symbolism is nice, and I'm all for protests, I do it myself frequently, but setting and stage are important. And the Rotunda was not the proper place for it. Take it outside to the Swamp, where the pressers are held. Do it on the Mall or even in on First and C. But when you interrupt legislative business (like Code Pink does in Committee meetings) or create a security issue, you're undermining the credibility of your message.

  • Amanda Hess

    Former Staffer, while I admire your distaste for administrative waste, creating an administrative fuss is the main justification behind the locations of protests like this one. In the Capitol building, you can be arrested for chaining yourself to other people, shouting a couple things, and laying down on the floor? Great. That's where they're gonna go. At that point, it doesn't really matter if Obama is there or other Congresspeople will be moseying on by to overhear you---do you think the people shouting nonsense in the general direction of the White House get through to anyone?---the point is to get arrested, so people might hear about it on the news.

  • Q GreenPeace @ Mt. Rushmore.