Wed, Nov 27- Several hundred AIDS activists marched in downtown Washington yesterday to
call on President Bush to increase funding for global and domestic AIDS treatment, prevention and education, in a spirited protest that ended with planned arrests in front of the White House.
In a scenario agreed on with police ahead of time, 31 protesters, some linked by thin chains around their waists, lay on their backs on the
sidewalk outside the White House fence and were arrested and charged with conducting a stationary demonstration in a restricted area, a misdemeanor, U.S. Park Police said.
"It's a weapon of mass destruction, and it's being ignored," Philadelphia resident Tymm Walker, 42, said of AIDS. Walker said that he was diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago and that he has one brother who has the virus and another who died of AIDS complications seven years ago. "I don't want to see nobody else's mother go through what my mother has been through," he said.
Walker and others with HIV and AIDS boarded buses from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore to participate in the noon protest. The event --
organized by the Health GAP Coalition and ACT UP groups in New York and Philadelphia, among others -- was held as World AIDS Day approaches on Sunday.
Some carried mock body bags reading "Bush: Stop AIDS Deaths" and others cardboard skulls as the protesters marched from McPherson Square at 15th
Street NW to nearby Lafayette Square, across from the White House.
Activists said the fight against AIDS in the United States and developing countries is being neglected. They said more than 3 million people, many in poor countries, will die this year because they lack access to HIV/AIDS treatment. They argued that the Bush administration has made the war effort and tax cuts its priorities, ignoring the plight of those with HIV/AIDS.
"He's a man without a plan," Paul Davis, 33, said of the president. Davis, a director of the Health GAP Coalition and one of those arrested, said Bush "has not kept his promises to respond to the global AIDS disaster."
Davis and others demanded that the United States contribute more to the newly created Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The U.S.
pledge of $500 million is too little, said activists, who also called on the administration to support a global AIDS initiative for $2.5 billion in new spending.
Organizers cooperated with D.C. police and U.S. Park Police on the march route and the arrests. At Lafayette Square, where large protests are banned, police on foot and horseback stopped protesters. At 1:45 p.m., 31 protesters left the larger group and marched to the White House fence, where they were surrounded by police and carried to waiting vans.
Manny Fernandez/Washington Post