December 1, 2009
On World AIDS Day, AIDS activists from DC Fights Back were arrested today during a protest outside the Wilson Building demanding Mayor Fenty take urgent steps to expand the response to the AIDS crisis in Washington DC.
The activists, Larry Bryant and Matthew Kavanagh, were arrested while delivering petitions from Washington DC residents to the Mayor, standing inside the Wilson Building, a public building. They were given misdemeanor charges for "failure to move."
DC Fights Back member Karyn Pomerantz also tried to deliver the petition but was not arrested.
The petition asked Fenty to end DC's AIDS housing waiting list, which has grown to more than 500 people. It also asked the mayor to devise a strategy so the list doesn't grow again and develop a strategic plan that includes harm reduction HIV prevention, such as syringe exchange and comprehensive sex education.
"We keep hearing about 'wake-up calls' -- as our city leaders are 'shocked' and 'appalled' at the severity of our epidemic and poor use of funds," said Bryant, who is also co-chair of DC Fights Back, which organized the protest. "But how many wake up calls do we need to see the system is failing? Where is the emergency plan to address the full breadth of the epidemic and where are the city funds to house the hundreds of homeless people living with AIDS languishing on waiting lists for years?"
The arrests came after hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Wilson Building, decrying the lack of a strategic response to addressing the catastrophic AIDS epidemic in Washington DC, where roughly one in ten residents are HIV positive, homeless people sick with AIDS are suffering on housing waiting lists, and there is no comprehensive plan to ensure access to essential HIV services.
The Mayor's Office can be called at 202-727-2980; please contact his office and request that he meet with activists immediately, and that all charges be dropped.