April 26, 2012
AIDS activist group ACT UP commemorated its 25th anniversary Wednesday by joining Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors for a demonstration in lower Manhattan. The recently allied groups are calling for a Wall Street transaction tax that they say could generate $400 billion annually for the provision of universal health insurance.
"Today, we have reinvigorated AIDS activism, building this new coalition with [OWS]," said Eric Sawyer, ACT UP's co-founder. He said OWS "has been a breath of fresh air for standing up for social justice. Something ACT UP has always done."
ACT UP, which stands for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, formed in 1987 to advocate for greater access to HIV/AIDS treatment. "Our first action was Wall Street and protesting high prices for AZT," said member Andrew Velez.
Wednesday's march from City Hall to South Street Seaport and back up to Broadway featured some 500 demonstrators holding signs reading "ACT UP & Occupy" and "Tax Wall Street: End AIDS." Organizers said 19 people were arrested after they chained themselves together and then to a lamppost, blocking traffic near the Stock Exchange.
Sawyer said he believes a tax on stock, bonds, and derivative transactions to fund health insurance "will happen." He noted ACT UP successfully lobbied for the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.