Massive marches, flash-demos in Washington for AIDS Conference
Things are heating up in advance of the We Can End AIDS march in Washington, DC July 23. The march for anticipates over 30,000 will march tomorrow, along with HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, and Canada’s AIDS ACTION NOW! Which staged another banner intervention in front of the Canadian booth at the convention centre.
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In a rousing start to the day, around 50 activists from Canada and abroad targeted Health Canada’s booth at the International AIDS Conference carrying signs and banners with messages such as “Harm reduction = Life”, while chanting: “Harper’s cuts are killing us, AIDS Action Now!” The booth was wrapped in caution tape reading: “The Harper Government: Evidence Free Zone”, calling attention to the federal government’s denial of the science and evidence of harm reduction interventions – such as providing needle exchange programs, which the Harper government has opposed and defunded; “and the implementation of failed approaches such as mandatory minimum sentencing,” the AAN! website read today. AAN!’s position echos that of BC researcher Dr. Evan Wood and numerous experts who believe that the “war on drugs” has only hindered prevention and treatment efforts at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, an intervention occurred in the press room at the Conference, where members of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance unfurled a banner with the logo of tomorrow’s demonstration and simply “#endAIDS”, the Twitter hashtag for the group. The Robin Hood tax, also known as the financial transaction tax for speculative trades, is a proposed tax of 0.05% on all stock market financial transactions geared at funding global AIDS medication supplies and other humanitarian needs. While it is supported by everyone from Bill Gates to the Vatican, the tax is predictably unpopular with US Republicans and the finance industry.
The We Can End AIDS Mobilization
Announced as a “mobilization for economic justice and human rights” the massive convergence tomorrow (July 23) will include 35 busloads of people from all over the Eastern Seaboard, including people living with HIV and AIDS. Jennifer Flynn of New York-based AIDS advocacy org Health Gap and spokesperson for We Can End AIDS explained that the sense of urgency this year is fuelled by the knowledge that an “AIDS-free generation” (Hillary Clinton’s phrase) will take more than just fancy speeches. “This is about us repeatedly going to Congress members to tell our leaders to increase access to housing, treatment, and support, so we can end the AIDS crisis in 30 years,” Flynn told 2B. The We Can End AIDS demonstration will include five different branches, each espousing a specific set of demands and geared towards government and corporate seats of power.
“We’re going to be stopping and occupying the sources of real power, i.e. the corporations: Wells Fargo, UPS (the biggest single funder behind Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg, who reinstated the US and worldwide ban on federal funding for syringe exchanges), Bank of America, and trade and investment associations who are stopping the passage of a Robin Hood tax,” Flynn furthered.
To symbolize the ability of the American public to devote funds to ending AIDS, 10,000 of the people gathered will physically hand over one US dollar to six people representing the various groups behind We Can End AIDS. The $10,000 collected will then be thrown over the White House Lawn gates, the focal point of many historic demonstrations, such as ACT-UP’s 1992 “Ashes Action,” where activists literally threw the ashes of their loved ones who had died of AIDS in protest against government inaction.
Check out AIDS ACTION NOW!’s anti-Harper pro-harm-reduction intervention here: