ACTUP Capsule History 1991
January 7, 1991: Hundreds demonstrate outside the Manhattan Criminal Court building on "Judgment Day" while six activists from "Stop the Church" are sentenced. The hostile judge convicts the 'Safe Sex Six' but compares them to Gandhi and Martin Luther King and given sentences of community service rather than six months in jail.
January 16, 1991: Lead by the YELL (Youth Education Life Line) Committee of ACT UP, activists and high school students demand immediate approval of the condom distribution plan proposed by Public School Chancellor Fernandez. YELL and the students also demand that the "counseling" and parental consent portions of the plan be withdrawn and replaced with a revised AIDS education program that deals honestly with AIDS transmission, prevention and sexuality.
January 23, 1991: ACT UP declares a "Day of Desperation" in New York City. This action, designed to target every aspect of City life, demands that everyone realize that every day is a day of desperation for those in the AIDS community. Day of Desperation begins when activists invaded PBS and CBS Evening News broadcasts on the night of the 22nd. On the 23rd a morning demo begins on Wall St. and more than 2000 protesters marched with coffins that were delivered to City, State & Federal officials responsible for perpetuating the AIDS epidemic. An action at the State Office building in Harlem demands an end to the City homeless shelter system. The housing Committee joins Stand Up Harlem, Emmaus House and various Harlem religious leaders in protesting the lack of housing and services for people with HIV. The march goes down Martin Luther King Blvd. to the State office Bldg, carrying coffins with a demonstration at the plaza. Several people are arrested. The Latino/a Caucus invaded the Bronx Borough President's office; the Alternative and Holistic Committee videotapes Dr. Emilio Carillos as he promises to add immuno-enhancing nutritional programs and acupuncture to City hospitals. At 5:07 pm, Grand Central Station was the setting for a spectacular and massive act of civil disobedience as ACT UP took over the station. A banner announcing "One AIDS Death Every Eight Minutes" was hung over the arrivals board. 263 people are later arrested as the group attempted to march to the United Nations.
February 5, 1991: Three ACT UP members are arrested in front of Cardinal O'Conner's residence and charged with bias-related felonies for spray painting "O'Connor Spreads Death" on the sidewalk. While in custody, they are subjected to anti-gay verbal and physical harassment by New York City police.
February 11, 1991: An impromptu demonstration protesting the recent police brutality, is held at the Midtown North Police precinct. As the event ends, the police charge unprovoked at the non-violent demonstrators with their night sticks swinging. Three demonstrators are picked off and arrested, including one marshall who is brutally assaulted in police custody. As a result, a working group is formed to address police brutality.
February 27, 1991: ACT UP celebrates one of its most concrete victories against the AIDS virus as the New York City Board of Education vote 4-3 to approve a plan to distribute condoms to high school students in the public schools. ACT UP's Youth Education Life Line Committee was an important part of the coalition that lobbied and pressured the board for the plan's passage.
February, 1991: Ten people, who had been charged with possession of needles with the intent to distribute them to IV drug users on the Lower East Side, are acquitted by a judge who agrees that the "Necessity Defense" applies to their case. The judge rules that the activists' actions are justified by the need to try to save the lives of people vulnerable to HIV infection.
March 1991: Upon learning of a plan by Mayor Dinkins to cut City AIDS funding, breaking Dinkins' post-election promise that AIDS funding would be exempt from budget cuts, ACT UP created another loud demonstration that could be heard in City Council chambers. Most of the cuts were restored to the budget in subsequent weeks.
May 3, 1991: ACT UP/NY, together with ACT UPs from all over the state and STAND UP/Emmaus House, go to Albany to HIT THE DOCS (Department of Correctional Services). They demand medical treatment for prisoners with AIDS, declaring that "Living with AIDS in prison is cruel and unusual punishment."
May 31, 1991: ACT UPs from the East coast descend upon the National Insurance Association in Washington, DC, to protest health profiteering and march to the Capitol Building to demand comprehensive national health care from the US Congress.
June 16-22, 1991: ACT UP/NY members attend the International AIDS Conference in Florence, Italy. Though short on good news, the conference includes an unprecedented number of HIV+ people on panels, in the conference and in the streets. Scientists join activists in a march on the U.S. Consulate to protest the exclusion of HIV+ foreigners from entry to the US. ACT UP obtains a promise from the organizing committee to cancel the conference in Boston if the policy is not changed. A revised edition of the Womens Research & Treatment Agenda is distributed.
July 9, 1991: ACT UP returns to the DOCS, this time at the New York State Office Building on 125th Street to demand an end to the exclusion of HIV+ prisoners from the family reunion program. The next day, a class action suit is filed on the prisoners' behalf by Prisoners Legal Services. Within a month, the policy is changed.
August 1991: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) proposes a revised definition of AIDS to include anyone with a T-cell count of 200 or less. They also added two gynecological opportunistic infections to the classification, the first women-specific opportunistic infections.
September 1991: ACT UP's YELL (Youth Education Life Line) Committee led the way to victory in defeating an amendment to the condom distribution plan of the New York City Board of Education which would give parents the right to "Opt-out" and bar their children from receiving condoms in school.
September 1, 1991: 2500 AIDS activists marched on President Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine to demand leadership and to declare that THE AIDS CRISIS CAN END. After a die-in on the road to the Bushs' house, activists unrolled a fifty foot long banner which outlined a 32-point plan to end the AIDS Crisis. The next day the President said that he was more moved by the demonstration of the unemployed the week before. "That one hit home" he said, "because when a family is out of work, that's one that I care very much about."
September, 1991: "Doctors in Chains" Action at Beeckman Hospital to protest legislation proposed by Jesse Helms calling for mandatory testing of healthcare workers. The bill is defeated.
September 25, 1991: The Housing Committee organizes a "Kinder, Gentler Housing Demo" at the Federal Bldg. at 26 Federal Plaza to protest federal inaction on AIDS housing. Demonstrators wearing Bush masks picket around a cardboard city.
September 30, 1991: ACT UP targets President Bush at the White House, declaring that, with over 120,000 Americans dead from AIDS, the President is getting away with murder. In a loud and angry march to the White House, activists demanded that the President stop his deliberate policy of neglect. Eighty-four people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience that included chaining themselves to the gates of the White House and to each other. Bush spent the day in Disney World.
December 1991: ACT UP's Womens caucus organizes and participates in meetings for women AIDS activists/women with HIV at NIAID. The demand that the WIHS -Womens Interagency HIV Study - is appropriately designed so that community-based clinics which see the greatest numbers of HIV+ women will be able to compete with medical centers in getting funding as research sites.