FIGHTING THE GLOBAL AIDS CRISIS
MARCHING AGAINST THE
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND!
Washington, DC - April 16, 2000

 

Many of the nearly 140 demonstrators who had been arrested and remain in Washington, DC jails have suffered beatings at the hands of police from several jurisdictions, according to the volunteer legal team that is speaking to them in jail and interviewing them after their release.
SEE REPORT BELOW

CANCEL ALL DEBT FOR POOR COUNTRIES!_ 90% of the world's people with HIV live in desperately poor countries whose governments can't afford to provide basic health care or prevention services. Sound like a death sentence? It is. A key reason for this catastrophe is the campaign by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- two powerful, US-controlled financial institutions -- to force countries with staggering debt payments to cut back and privatize their health care, while imposing fees on poor people who urgently need medical services.

Cancelling the debt will free up money to build health care centers, prevent and treat opportunistic infections that make AIDS more deadly, and establish massive education/prevention campaigns that include condom and clean-needle distribution. Like in Seattle at last year's World Trade Organization meeting, a massive coalition assembled to say NO to the global powers-that-be.

Here in New York we have all seen the devastating effects of AIDS on our communities and families. We have had to stand together in the struggle for funding for prevention, treatment and research. We continue to demand greater access and availability of drugs for all. Yet, imagine if you lived in a country where there were no affordable health care centers, and there were no drugs to treat many of the infections that people with AIDS face. Where diseases like malaria and TB were common and the possibility of anti-viral drugs was a fantasy. That is exactly what 90% of the world population who are suffering from AIDS face everyday. They live in countries with staggering debt payments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB).

What do the IMF and WB have to do with AIDS? Plenty. Over the past 20 years, the IMF and WB have made massive loans to poor countries with extremely high payback rates. In Africa alone the debt burden is estimated at $230 billion.

IMF/WB-controlled countries spend four times more money paying off the interest on these debts than they do on health care.

Many loans were made to support wasteful projects endorsed by corrupt regimes.

Restrictive loan repayment conditions like Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) cause massive cutbacks in social services including health care. Clinics and hospitals close down, user fees are imposed, and health care services are privatized.

IMF/WB policies create devastating poverty, severely limiting countriesí capacity to address the urgent needs of people living with HIV/AIDS, and of carrying out effective prevention programs.

Until steps are taken to alleviate the crushing burden of debt, effective prevention and life-saving AIDS treatments will remain out of reach for those who need them.


AIDS Activists Take Part in IMF/World Bank Protests in DC
by Liz Highleyman, Bay Area Reporter

Several hundred AIDS activists joined environmentalists, labor unionists, human rights advocates, and a host of others in Washington, D.C. last week for a series of protests against the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), both of which were holding their annual meetings in that city.

Some had hoped and others had feared that last week's events would be a repeat of the protests in Seattle last November and December against the World Trade Organization (WTO), which sparked what many are calling a revival of the American progressive movement. As happened in Seattle, multiple affinity groups gathered at dawn on Sunday, April 16 to block intersections surrounding the IMF and World Bank headquarters in an attempt to prevent the scheduled meetings from taking place. Police were able to escort in most of the delegates and the meeting was not stopped, but the protesters succeeded in shutting down much of D.C. and bringing attention to their cause. Although there were numerous skirmishes between protesters and police -- several involving the use of pepper spray, tear gas, or batons -- the demonstrations on Sunday and Monday were considerably less dramatic than last fall's Seattle melee, reflecting better planning and organization on the part of both organizers and the police. Over 1,000 protesters were arrested during the course of the week.

A coalition calling itself the Mobilization for Global Justice was the primary organizer of the April 16-17 actions. Although a wide diversity of participants took part in the protests, there was a notable absence of a large, visible queer presence -- perhaps because many in the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender community are saving their money, vacation time, and organizational resources for the Millennium March on Washington at the end of this month.

AIDS activists organized by ACT UP/Philadelphia and New York made a visible showing, calling attention to the issue of drug access in poor countries. The Philadelphia chapter -- always one of the most radical, and one that has broadened it's constituency beyond ACT UP's gay, white, male roots -- brought eleven busloads of people to D.C.

ACT UP began the morning by blocking an intersection near the IMF building, bearing a giant, pink, paper maiche piggy bank. Later in the day, some 500 activists conducted a loud march to the Ellipse, a park near the White House, to join a permitted rally of upwards of 10,000 IMF/World Bank protesters. Although the participants carried matching signs with the familiar ACT UP lettering and voiced the traditional "ACT UP, Fight Back, Fights AIDS" chant, the march diverged from the characteristic ACT UP demonstrations of the late 1980s and early 1990s in that the group was comprised largely of older African-American men and women and fewer young, white queers.

ACT UP/Philadelphia member John Bell, an HIV positive African-American Vietnam war veteran, addressed the rally from the main stage, stating "We are fighting against institutions that push poor countries further away from self-sufficiency and independence, and closer to being slave-states, existing solely to provide cheap labor and resources to corporate interest from whiter, wealthier nations." Following the rally, the AIDS activists joined a large march that circled the perimeter of streets blockaded by the police; police barriers prevented a planned stop at the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

ACT UP/Philadelphia and the Health Gap Coalition of which it is a member have focused recently on access to AIDS treatments in poor countries. In particular, the group objects to the fact that current trade restrictions and intellectual property and patent laws do not allow poor countries to produce and distribute generic versions of brand-name antiviral drugs that the countries cannot afford. The coalition has targeted Vice President Al Gore for the past year because he has supported policies that favor U.S. pharmaceutical companies at the expense of people with AIDS in the third world. On World AIDS Day (December 1) last year -- which happened to coincide with the Seattle WTO meeting and protests -- President Bill Clinton agreed that the administration would no longer impose sanctions on poor countries that provide cheaper generic AIDS drugs; activists claim he has not followed through on this promise.

IMF/World Bank protesters object more broadly to the fact that the austerity measures -- known as structural adjustment programs -- imposed by these institutions often force poor countries to curtail their already meager healthcare spending. In addition, they argue that paying interest on World Bank debt prevents poor countries from devoting their resources to development and improving the lives of their people. ACT UP/Philadelphia hopes to defeat the proposed Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which seeks to impose austerity programs. According to ACT UP/Philadelphia's Paul Davis, "The Clinton-Gore administration supports a free-trade-based subsidy that will endanger millions of lives...[the bill] bullies poor nations into prioritizing debt payment over health spending, favoring exports over self-sufficiency. Big business prospers, while millions of citizens are left without life-saving medicine."

The issue of AIDS has not been lost on the economic powers-that-be. On Thursday, April 13, World Bank president James Wolfensohn stated that AIDS is a "major development challenge, if not the most important development challenge, confronting us in Africa today," and pledged that the disease would be one of the priority issues at last week's meetings. However, ACT UP/Philadelphia member Julie Davids was skeptical, stating, "People know that they have to say the right things [about AIDS], but we're not seeing those things materialize."


ARRESTED IMF DEMONSTRATORS BEGIN HUNGER STRIKE

>Date: Thu, 20 Apr 2000 14:58:11 -0500
>From: ACT UP Philadelphia <katie@CritPath.Org>

130-140 ARRESTED IMF DEMONSTRATORS REMAIN IN JAIL, ALLEGE REPEATED PHYSICAL ABUSE

50 ACTIVISTS ON HUNGER STRIKE

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Many of the nearly 140 demonstrators who remain in Washington, DC jails have suffered beatings at the hands of police from several jurisdictions, according to the volunteer legal team that is speaking to them in jail and interviewing them after their release. Met in the group, which is separated by gender, began a hunger strike at 5 pm on Wednesday, April 19th to protest their treatment. To guarantee the safety of all the detainees, those remaining in jail are practicing "jail solidarity" and refusing to leave jail until all are released. "Now that the helicopters and TV cameras have left DC, the public relations campaign is over. There is nothing to protect these prisoners, who are being housed deep in the bowels of government buildings around the city," commented ACT UP member Bill Donnelli. The legal team reports numerous beatings, as well as threats of physical abuse that include threats of sexual abuse. According to friends of the protesters, the experience has galvanized the diverse group of activists, who will be working together on protests this summer during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

The hunger strikers demand:

1. The return of several individuals who have been separated from the general population to the main group. This is because people who have been separated have beaten and threatened.

2. The release of the entire group on a minor charge with the punishment of time served. Members of organizations from across the United States are currently incarcerated together. Several members of ACT are among the protesters.

ACT UP demands:

1. Total debt relief from the IMF and World Bank for developing countriesónot just bigger and bigger loans, as they discuss in the World Bank report on AIDS released earlier this week.

2. An end to Structural Readjustment Programs as a precondition to foreign aid. SAPs, as they are known, force developing countries. These programs require countries to completely restructure their economies to pay off debts that are as much as twice as large as the countryís gross national product. As a result, there is no money for AIDS prevention or treatment. There are currently 23 million people with AIDS in subSaharan Africa alone. Twelve million have already died, according to World Health Organization estimates.

3. The defeat of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, currently being considered by Congress. This bill would impose SAPs on countries that receive aid from the United States. ACT UP Philadelphia, the largest grassroots AIDS activist group in the US, has waged a two-year campaign to increase access to AIDS drugs for people in developing countries and to put the issue on the national agenda.



Saturday, April 22, 2000

Contact: ACT UP/NY
John Riley (917) 653-7267
Sara Koch (202) 467-8100
Midnight Special Legal Collective (202) 842-4479
Bob Lederer (212) 242-2163 x216

JAILED WORLD BANK/IMF PROTESTERS CHARGE D.C. POLICE AND FEDERAL MARSHALS WITH HOMOPHOBIC ABUSE, SEXUAL HARASSMENT

AIDS Advocates and Queer Activists Demand Investigation

WASHINGTON, DC, April 22 - AIDS and gay rights organizations today demanded investigations of abuses committed by D.C. police and federal marshals after protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank last weekend. Out of a total of 1,300 people arrested at the protests, 153--including several queer and AIDS activists--were held for up to six days under conditions described by arrestees as "outrageous" and "brutal."

Some said they were tightly handcuffed, punched, pepper-sprayed, isolated, threatened with rape, strip-searched, and denied food, water and dry clothes after their arrests on Sunday and Monday.

"As often happens when activists do nonviolent civil disobedience, the police and feds responded with violence and brutality," says ACT UP/New York member John Riley, one of those arrested. "It's not surprising that homophobia and sexism are pillars of police intimidation. Their goal is to break the powerful solidarity shown by demonstrators from very diverse movements. We demand that an independent investigation be conducted of these outrageous human rights violations."

In a pre-planned tactic known as "jail solidarity," hundreds of arrestees refused to reveal their identities to police. Other resistance tactics included refusing to sign documents without their lawyers' presence and removing their clothes to prevent authorities from taking them to court without lawyers of their choice. The strong solidarity of those jailed, combined with a nationwide campaign of mass phone pressure on the D.C. Mayor, Police Department and city attorneys, led to the release Friday and Saturday of all the activists. Except for 24 who still face federal charges (4 of them felonies), all the other arrestees' misdemeanor charges were reduced to "jaywalking," a minor traffic infraction which will not appear on their records, with a $5 fine. Furthermore, the agreement is retroactive, covering the hundreds of people who had been arrested during the entire week of protests (except those who had already paid a fine). Lawyers said the remaining defendants will strongly contest their charges, which they described as false.

According to accounts by the protesters compiled by their lawyers at the Midnight Special Legal Collective, D.C. police and jail officials attempted to induce arrestees to reveal their identities by such methods as lying about the conditions and solidarity commitments of other arrestees, denying constitutionally mandated access to lawyers, and forbidding access to bathroom facilities. In phone calls from the jail and written accounts filed with defense attorneys, arrestees related accounts of physical and sexual intimidation, assault, and homophobic and racist threats of sexual violence. (See second page with list of incidents.) Threatening to isolate the activists and transfer them to the general jail population, a policeman reportedly said, referring to the Black prisoners, "They love to mess with white boys in there, you pussy faggot protesters." In another case, a federal marshal warned noncooperators that "those transferred to general population often leave with assholes the size of mayonnaise jars." Arrestees charged that even some of the court-appointed defense attorneys made similar homophobic threats.

When the protesters were eventually lodged with the general prison population, authorities locked down the entire facility and blamed the protesters, initially inducing hostility from other prisoners. After the protesters demanded the end of the lockdown and explained the authorities' divide-and-rule tactics, they were welcomed by the other prisoners, who detailed regular violations of their human rights by prison staff.

Several women protesters were strip-searched by male police officers. Some report that they were tied down while male officers fondled their breasts.

These guards also directed homophobic and sexist verbal threats toward these women. Another incident involved a transgendered oman who was separated and placed in solitary confinement when police realized she was transgendered.

A group of arrestees reported being brought to a basement room by several U.S. Marshals-none wearing their badges-and told, "There are no video cameras down here, so we can do whatever the fuck we want." The men were instructed not to make eye contact with the Marshals, and were punched in the face for failure to comply. U.S. Marshals put some of the men into strangleholds until they turned blue.

Early on Tuesday morning, approximately 30 male arrestees were dropped off individually at arbitrary points around the District during heavy rain. In some cases, the men did not have money, shoelaces, jackets or even shirts.

For three days, 60 of the jailed men staged a hunger strike demanding an end to the systematic human rights abuses, visits by lawyers of their choice, and good-faith negotiations for everyone's release.

Hector Vargas, State Legislative Lawyer with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), said, "We are very concerned about the allegations of homophobic and transphobic abuse and harassment by local and federal law enforcement officials. NGLTF is bringing together local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender activists to determine an appropriate course of action, including demanding that the allegations are investigated thoroughly by DC and Federal government officials and, if substantiated, holding them accountable for their unacceptable actions."

The massive protests and civil disobedience actions were directed against the semi-annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, two powerful financial institutions largely directed by the U.S. government. Among the hundreds of hundreds of labor, environmental, civil rights, and political organizations that endorsed the "Mobilization for Global Justice" were the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Pride at Work of the AFL-CIO, the Democratic Socialists of America Queer Commission, Queers for Racial and Economic Justice, Lesbian Avengers of D.C., and ACT UP chapters in New York and Philadelphia.

ACT UP Philadelphia alone brought over 600 protesters to the legally authorized rally near the White House on Sunday, April 16, an event that drew some 15,000 participants. John Bell, an ACT UP member, recovering drug user and PWA, addressed the crowd, calling the impact of the World Bank and IMF on PWAs in Africa "genocidal" because of the institutions' refusal to relieve crushing debt that robs funds for health care, and their requirement of brutal austerity programs that include health care slashes, privatization, and unaffordable fees.

- 30 -


see also: Democracy in Action, World Bank Style: Queer Baitings and Beatings After Police Riot in Washington DC

For further information on the IMF, visit the Health Gap web site and Mobilization for Global Justice.

For background on IMF and AIDS, see article published in POZ magazine in July 1998 co-written by Joyce Millen, researcher and writer with the Institute for Health and Social Justice at Harvard; and Bob Lederer, Senior Editor of POZ Magazine.



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