Act Up! It’s Not Just A Slogan

Today’s entry is about Act Up!, an advocacy group born in 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. The name stands for AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, which means that these people worked their a** off to have a direct impact on lives of people living with HIV. And they really did. One of their most famous slogan was “Silence = Death”: this can probably give an idea of the style and character of these activists and of their demonstration. We should still thank them for their fight against stigma and prejudice and their battles for medical and social rights.

The creation of the group was the answer to the inefficiency of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis , whose action had never lead to political changes. But a political action was needed: what did “political action” mean for them? I give you some practical examples: in 1989 some activists infiltrated in Wall Street and chained themselves to the VIP balcony, showing a banner saying “Sell Wellcome”. They were protesting for the high price for AIDS treatments: 10,000$ per year.

That same year 4,500 people gathered in front of Saint Patrick’s Church in New York to protest against the church’s policies against safe sex, abortion and women. Some activists broke into the church during a Mass.

On October 10 in 1992, Act Up celebrated its “first political funeral” in Washington D.C. Hundreds of people marched in the city and scattered the ashes of loved ones on the lawn of the White House.

Most of these public actions ended with an arrest, or more precisely, with policemen carrying the yelling activists by their arms inside the police trucks. This was the perfect way to spread the message. Activists are usually those who say what many people won’t like to hear and do exactly what people are not be supposed to do, just because they feel the need of fighting against something they think is wrong.


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