(The following article first appeared in the September 25, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian)
“I think Bob Dole and Bill Clinton both stink. I think they both don’t give a damn about AIDS. And I think the reality that we are told, vote for the lesser of two evils, is unacceptable,” the ACT-UP New York Prison Caucus Chairperson said. The ACT-UP spokesperson, David, was talking to a pack of media people around noon on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 1996, on the sidewalk in front of the press center that the Dems had set-up in Chicago’s Loop.
“There are many of us out here who have 10, 12, 15 T-cells left. And we cannot negotiate with these animals who have decided that we don’t have a strong enough caucus. We don’t have a strong enough voice. And we haven’t been recognized as having to deal with the epidemic in our daily lives.
“This is not cancer. This is not heart disease. This is a pandemic. Zaire is almost gone from it. There are other countries which have been wiped out. And it’s going to start here.
“Brooklyn has more people with AIDS in it. By year 2010 it will have more than people in it who don’t have AIDS. This is a pandemic and it is being created by social conditions. Clinton is deadlier than the virus at this point.”
Downtown/Aquarian asked David how he’d respond to those who say, like Barney Frank, that “Clinton is the lesser evil?”
“That’s bullshit! So let’s have Hitler instead of Mussolini? That’s a total bullshit response,” answered the ACT-UP New York spokesperson. “Anybody who comes out and says that, that `Clinton has done well with people with AIDS,’ is a liar or ignorant. Anybody who says that we should take Dole over Clinton is not recognizing that he’s killing us just as well. He just signed the worst Republican welfare cut in the history of this country! We don’t want Dole. We don’t want Clinton. I personally need to see a revolution come now. And that’s what it takes.”
On the sidewalk behind David, about 20 ACT-UP demonstrators held signs and were chanting “Welfare Reform Equals Death! Hillary Is A Fraud!” and “Clinton Equals Dole! Fight Back! Fight AIDS!" According to the ACT-UP New York Prison Caucus Chairperson:
“Clinton made 66 promises in 1992 to reform the AIDS crisis and try to bring substantial change to keep people with AIDS alive. He has kept none of those promises. His own presidential AIDS Advisory Council has condemned him over and over again for taking no stance on the drug industry’s enormous profiteering off AIDS. He has done nothing, by executive action, to bring about clean needle exchange, which saves the lives of millions of people. He has done nothing to try to bring about actions right now that would save lives of people with AIDS, by bringing about immediate release of drugs that are sitting in the FDA without any type of testing going on.”
ACT-UP was out in Chicago “as a diverse, non-partisan coalition” that represented “angered action to end the AIDS crisis in order to bring about immediate action by the president, by his staff, to recognize that the AIDS crisis is still going on,” said David. He also warned “that more people will die from AIDS in the next four years” if Clinton waits to take the proposed actions “than died in World War II, Korea and the Vietnam War.”
A uniformed security guard interrupted ACT-UP’s impromptu sidewalk press conference by ordering the press to “clear the sidewalk” in front of the Democratic Party's press center. Prior to ACT-UP’s picket, a homeless African-American man could be seen sitting on a ledge at the corner of Downtown Chicago’s Wells Street. A handful of homeless African-Americans were also later observed sitting in Grant Park, at the same time about 30 counter-cultural folks were hanging out around the park bandshell, early in the afternoon. One of the young women hanging out was standing and doing some stretching exercises under the hot sun. (end of part 1)
Next: The Clintons’ 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited—Part 2