Police arrested 40 protesters, some of them GW students, for civil disobedience after the World AIDS Day rally outside the White House Friday.
“We decided to get arrested to represent the dire situation and the need for policy change and sit in solidarity with millions of people around the world who don’t have the privilege to be in D.C. and rally in front of the White House,” said senior Tucker Landesman said.
About 200 students, activists, and community members rallied at Lafayette Park outside the White House. Forty of the activists, including 25 GW students, tied themselves together with red tape, symbolizing their desire to cut the red tape of the administration, and sat in front of the White House.
Amid the chants, including “Bush is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S, he won’t give us money for the H-I-V-A-I-D-S,” police started arresting the women first and then the men. They were brought to a facility in Anacostia, where they were charged with a $100 fine and released that night.
“For people like us on the front lines, every day is World AIDS Day,” said Asia Russell, an advocate for the Health GAP.
“We want more than a red ribbon hung outside the White House,” Russell added, referring to the nearly 30-foot-tall AIDS ribbon hung on the White House’s north fa?ade, “We want action.”
Activists demanded reform of the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, by the allocation of $50 billion to stop the spread of AIDS, $20 billion more than the amount that President George W. Bush asked for from Congress. They also called for the striking of an earmark that stipulates using a third of the money for abstinence-only education.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting Democrat who represents D.C., gave a speech at the rally that was formed as an open letter to Bush.
Norton said, “You don’t know how to save lives, Mr. President.”
Norton criticized some of the pledges Bush had taken in regard with HIV/AIDS, including abstinence-only education.
“Show us the money, enough of the oaths,” Norton said.
An annual report by the Department of Health showed that one in 20 residents of D.C. are living with HIV/AIDS, the highest incidence rate in the country.
At another World AIDS day event, Save Lives: Free the Condoms Coalition protested outside a CVS store Saturday in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest D.C.
A dozen students and professors from the School of Public Health handed out free condoms to those exiting CVS and to cars passing by on Georgia Avenue to protest the CVS’s policy of locking up their condoms in certain stores.
Graduate student Elizabeth Anderson-Hoagland, a spokesperson for the coalition, said in a survey the group conducted last year found 22 stores in the D.C. area locked their condoms. All of the locked condoms were in minority neighborhoods.
After writing to CVS, the company agreed to begin selling a greater variety of condoms without locks. But in another survey conducted the by group last month, they found one CVS in Petworth where the condoms were still locked.
Anderson-Hoagland said that people who were easily embarrassed would be discouraged from purchasing condoms if they had to call a pharmacist for help.
“Any barrier to something that can save someone’s live is wrong,” Anderson-Hoagland said.
Although the Petworth CVS has a click box that dispenses condoms after pressing a button, managers had locked the click box so that people couldn’t access it themselves.
In the course of the protest, CVS unlocked the click box, but students remained to campaign for CVS to adopt a national policy on access to condoms.
“I don’t understand what they have to lose by adopting the policy,” said Carline Sparks, a professor at the School of Public Health.
Sparks added, “This is clearly racist to lock up half the condoms in city that are only in minority neighborhoods.”