by Richard Brown, ACT UP / New York
Get endorsements from local AIDS organizations, political groups, city and state politicians, churches, labor unions, and community groups. Provide them with a copy of the long form of the AIDS Cure Project (22 pages) and ask them to return the endorsement form to ACT UP/NY. (Enclosed is a sample letter requesting an endorsement; always follow-up with a phone call and/or a visit.) Consider bringing endorsers or interested groups together in a local meeting to find more ways to advance the fight for a cure.
a. MEDIA Local news forums, public access TV, radio, alternative newspapers, local gay and lesbian press and bar rags are accessible to you. For copies of a media kit or advice, please e-mail a request to ACT UP <email@example.com> with a return address. Many gay and lesbian and neighborhood papers will print press releases as articles if you provide them.
b. DEMONSTRATIONS & ZAPS make great media, especially in cities not as accustomed to them as NYC. Choose an appropriate target and place. If a political figure is coming to your area, plan a demo. Examples are: the President, Donna Shalala, Dr. David Kessler, Dr. Tony Fauci, Dr. Harold Varmus, Dr. William Paul, Kristine Gebbie, Senators Kennedy, Hatfield, Harkin, Representatives Waxman, Pelosi, etc. If you need sample leaflets, fact sheets, graphics, etc., let us know with enough advance notice and we may be able to help.
a. GRASS ROOTS MOBILIZATION Post cards, letters, and phone calls from constituents get the attention of Representatives and Senators. A camera-ready sheet of post cards is provided in this packet. Tabling at community events, street fairs, AIDS Walks, Gay & Lesbian Pride events, on a busy street, or at a supermarket are great locations. Provide literature and have a jar for donations to help cover postage and printing. You might also ask endorsing organizations to help with some postage and photocopying. (The Church Ladies for Choice hold bake sales for the AIDS Cure Working Group.) The great thing about tabling is that you can choose a location to target a specific constituency for a member of congress. If people don't know who their representative is, get their address with a zip code. We can provide you with a copy of zips codes for your state (from the Congressional Yellow Pages) so that you can look up the Reps. by zip code.
b. CALL THE REPRESENTATIVE'S OFFICE Ask to speak to a legislative assistant for health policy. Be polite but aggressive. Identify yourself as a member of the AIDS Cure Coalition as well as your local affiliations and ask the Representative to co-sponsor the AIDS Cure Act, HR 3470 introduced by Jerrold Nadler, D-NY. If you get a positive response, have them call Nadler's office. If they are reluctant or refuse, set up a meeting with the representative when they will be in their district office or in Washington, if you can manage the travel expenses.
c. MEETING WITH THE MEMBER OF CONGRESS OR THEIR STAFF Review the project and the Question and Answer sheet on the project. Invite local service providers and PWA's to come with you (but ask them to focus on HR 4370 and a cure). ACT UP members can cross state lines. Phone us in New York, or speak to others in your region if you feel unsure or lack experience dealing with members of congress.
d. INFORMATIONAL, NON-HOSTILE ZAPS are effective in influencing some members of congress. For example, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York City was asked in a community forum on crime why she was the only representative from Manhattan that had not signed onto the AIDS Cure Act in front of a room full of her constituents. That night she was forced to admit that she did not know what the act was. The next day, however, she added her name to the list of co-sponsors. More aggressive zaps of members who are dragging their feet or opposing the project should also be considered. Disruptions of town forums or campaign appearances are often very effective. Use signs or banners demanding the AIDS CURE ACT HR 4370.
e. PHONE ZAPS to a usually sleepy district office can provoke quite a response. 25-50 people calling on the same afternoon or more than 50 calling over the course of a day or two will get the staff's attention and the congressperson will hear about it.
f. DEMONSTRATIONS at local rep's offices are great. For especially repulsive targets, a demo at their home might be just the thing to call attention to the issues. Use creative means, including civil disobedience when appropriate.
Let's work together. Call us if you need information or materials. Phone us with updates on your progress or just to discuss the strategy or see if we have any information that might be useful to you. We can help you to identify the key members of congress in your area by their committees, political clout, connections, etc.