FIRST ANTI-WEF ARRESTS:
ACT UP New Yorkers demand corporations provide AIDS drugs for their workers in poor countries

(Thursday January 31, 2002) Seven Members of ACT UP New York were arrested this morning at the crack of dawn, among the first demonstrators to be arrested confronting the World Economic Forum's annual meeting.

The protesters were arrested while dropping two massive banners in busy downtown and midtown New York City, the site of the World Economic Forum's meeting. The banners demanded that corporations pay for treatment for the tens of thousands of HIV-positive workers they employ in poor countries, and condemned what activists call Bush's measly contribution to the fight against the global AIDS crisis.

"Corporations would rather wring their hands and count the bodies than provide treatment for their HIV-positive employees in South Africa, in India, all over the world," said Sharonann Lynch, among the 7 activists arrested at 6 am this morning at the Holland Tunnel. "Super-profitable corporations like Coke and Shell can afford to pay for treatment for all of their workers with HIV/AIDS-but their greed stops them. They are refusing to lift a finger to save their own sick employees."

Activists anticipate the release of a report from the Global Health Initiative of the World Economic Forum on the "Business Response to AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria" on February 2. This report will present "best practices" for corporations responding to the global AIDS crisis, but will be silent on the issue of access to the life extending AIDS drugs that are widely available in rich countries.

Activists state that high-profile announcements including that of the Coca-Cola Corporation in June 2001, papered over the controversial issue of access to anti-HIV drugs. "Coke promised anti-HIV treatment only to their 'direct employees,'-a fraction of their workforce," said Asia Russell of ACT UP Philadelphia. "They excluded access for thousands of bottlers facing death in Africa-scratch the surface, and they are refusing to make a real commitment."

"The World Economic Forum is endorsing mass death by skirting the issue of access to affordable AIDS drugs," said Mark Milano of ACT UP New York, who was also arrested today. "Corporations must use their resources to pay for workplace treatment-including access to anti-HIV drugs. The Global Health Initiative should be condemned for refusing to mandate access to HIV drugs for workers."

This action came on the heels of President Bush's announcement that he would request Congress reduced the U.S. contribution to the Global AIDS Fund to only $200 million for FY 2003. The World Health Organization recently released a report stating that $12 billion is needed to address AIDS, TB and malaria worldwide. "The airline bailout was $14 billion. Bush is sending $200 million to a Global Fund that requires billions," reports John Bell of ACT UP. "Tax cuts for the wealthy? Billions in pork for corporations disguised as 'economic stimulus'? No problem for President Bush. He is turning his back on a pandemic worse than the Black Plague."

Protesters are being taken en masse to the Brooklyn Naval Yard; ACT UP believes that the New York Police Department will detain protesters until the WEF meeting concludes. "Preventative detention violates the right of Americans to due process," said Joe Stevens of ACT UP. "We condemn any action of the NYPD that violates the fundamental right of Americans to non-violent protest."

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January 31, 2002
The Village Voice
World Economic Forum in New York City

AIDS Activists Among First Jailed
by Laura Conaway

January 31-The New York chapter of ACT UP reports seven of its members were
arrested at dawn this morning while hanging two massive banners in midtown
and downtown Manhattan. The banners demanded that corporations carry the
cost of treatment for their workers in poor countries and criticized the
Bush administration's lack of attention to AIDS issues.

The seven activists, among the first to be arrested in protests at the World
Economic Forum, were taken to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the "Tombs"
facility in lower Manhattan. Two had been released by Thursday afternoon,
but ACT UP expects the others may be held until the meetings end.

Demonstrators are watching to see whether New York cops replicate what has
become the prevailing strategy at global confabs, where hundreds have been
arrested on charges that are later dropped or radically reduced. Kate Krauss
of ACT UP described this "preventive detention" approach as an
unconstitutional means of squelching dissent. "All you have to do is charge
them with an exorbitant charge and they're frozen," she said.

A police spokesman said five of the demonstrators had been charged with
criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, and another two had been nabbed
on administrative violations. No information about the possibility of
posting bail was immediately available.

 

FIRST ANTI-WEF ARRESTEES SPEAK:
ACT UP New Yorkers demand corporations provide AIDS drugs for their workers in poor countries

Contact: Sarinya Srisakul (917) 412-5226 (cell) ~ (718) 802-9540

The first anti-WEF protesters that were arrested spoke at a press conference today about the conditions under which they were held.

The seven protesters were arrested yesterday in the early morning while allegedly dropping two massive banners in busy downtown and midtown New York City, the site of the World Economic Forum's meeting. The banners demanded that corporations pay for treatment for the tens of thousands of HIV-positive workers they employ in poor countries, and condemned what activists call Bush's measly contribution to the fight against the global AIDS crisis.

Five women and two men were arrested and kept in separate facilities. The women were inexplicably transferred to the Brooklyn Criminal Courts and were all charged with burglary and recklessly endangering another person. The two men were at first brought to the Navy Yard and then moved to Central Bookings in Manhattan where they were subsequently released in the late afternoon on the new Desk Appearance Ticket policy for protesters. The females were held much longer and were supposedly processed through the entire criminal system.

Inside the Brooklyn jails, the conditions were sub-standard. "Even the police were screaming about the rats and cockroaches that were in there. The toilets were disgusting, everything was filthy," stated Jackie Vimo, one of the female members of ACT UP. These kinds of health violations breed such infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis, advocates say.

But the conditions were not nearly as bad as they are in some of the countries where wealthy corporations employ many people and families with HIV/AIDS, according to activists. One example--out of many corporate infractions around the world--is the Coca-Cola Corporation in only giving access to HIV medication to a small fraction of their workforce, leaving thousands of their employees stranded without healthcare.





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