Karen Ocamb

AIDS at 30: ACT UP Demonstrates at L.A. Federal Building

Filed By Karen Ocamb | June 08, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACT UP, HIV/AIDS, LA Times, Troy Perry

One of the largest of the early ACT UP demonstrations in Southern California brought in over 400 people from all walks of life in October 1989 to demand that the federal government grant people with HIV/AIDS access to experimental drugs in the glacial FDA pipeline. Here's the fairly comprehensive LA Times story about the protest, during which 80 people were arrested. Here's an excerpt:

"I'm about to get arrested, and I'm a little afraid," said psychologist Martin McCombs as officers dragged away a man squatting next to him."I'm willing to get arrested because I'm more afraid of doing nothing."

Just before he was arrested, [Metropolitan Community Church founder Rev. Troy] Perry said much of the apathy that exists about AIDS springs from such misconceptions as "only homosexuals contract the disease and it's a punishment from God."

"I don't believe in a theology of disease," said Perry. "This is no more God's punishment of homosexuals than sickle cell is punishment for black people.

And in the end, demonstrators conceded that they had little impact on the employees.

"I'm telling people I'm dying," said Brian."And I'm asking them to help me, and I feel like I'm talking to people who were never alive in the first place."

Federal Protective Services chief Mike Anderson told The Times that Perry suffered minor shoulder injuries during his arrest.  Troy - one of the true heroes of the AIDS crisis for comforting so many as they lay dying - told me that the injury was so severe, he still feels pain at times all these years later. We captured that arrest in this report which my friend Tad Feldman and I shot and produced for West Hollywood City Channel News.

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(Cross-posted at LGBT POV)

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What a great and important piece of history, Karen. It speaks to not only our community's long struggle and effective early AIDS activism, but also to your long service in documenting our history. So, thank you!