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AIDS activists arrested in Washington

Twenty-six people were charged with unlawfully demonstrating in the Capitol rotunda.

July 10, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A group of AIDS activists was arrested Thursday for unlawfully demonstrating in the Capitol rotunda, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said 11 men and 15 women each face a charge of unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and loud and boisterous behavior. Their names and ages were not immediately released.

Schneider said the group entered the rotunda and linked themselves together with a white chain.

The area is usually crowded with tourists, but police restricted the traffic while they made arrests.

The activists carried signs in support of funding for needle exchange, HIV/AIDS housing and programs aimed at fighting AIDS.

They chanted "Fight global AIDS now" and "Clean needles save lives." They marched in a circle before lying down on the floor.

Police bound the activists' hands together and dragged some of the demonstrators to their feet as they arrested them.

The arrests were made one day before President Obama is to arrive in Ghana, where 320,000 people are HIV-positive, according to the United Nations' AIDS-fighting agency, UNAIDS.

The activists were part of a coalition of five AIDS groups from Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

Omolola Adele-Oso of DC Fights Back questioned why lawmakers were bailing out financial institutions instead of devoting more dollars to AIDS programs.

"HIV is not in a recession," Adele-Oso said in a written statement from the coalition about the demonstration.

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