Activist Protest Profiteering by Drug Companies, and Federal Refusal to Address the Crisis in AIDS Treatment Access.


NEW YORK, March 24, 1997 - Hundreds of AIDS activists from ACT_UP_(AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) converged on Wall Street this morning, stopping traffic and paralyzing Lower Manhattan for more than three hours. The group gathered to protest price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies and cutbacks in Medicaid funding, and demanded Congressional hearings on AIDS drug pricing. Seventy-three people, two thirds of them women, were arrested for acts of civil disobedience near the New York Stock Exchange. The demonstration was called "Crash the Market."


More than 500 activists from chapters in eight cities (New York; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Atlanta; Washington, DC.; Las Vegas; Oberlin, Ohio; and Philadelphia) braved subfreezing temperatures to join the march. The demonstration coincides with the tenth anniversary of the beginning of ACT UP. The very first demonstration organized by ACT UP took place on Wall Street in March 24, 1987 to demand corporate and government action to end the AIDS crisis, including a cut in the $10,000 annual price of AZT, then the only drug approved to treat HIV infection. After further protests, the price was greatly reduced.


Virg Parks, a member of ACT UP Golden Gate, explained one of the purposes of the demonstration.

"Drug company profiteering is still killing people with HIV and AIDS. These corporate giants are pricing their new life-saving AIDS drugs-like protease inhibitors-out of reach of thousands of PWAs. In their greed, they're foot-dragging on development of new drugs that replace existing highly profitable drug combinations. They're refusing to adequately test current AIDS drugs in women and children. And they're rejecting price breaks to the poorest countries hit hardest by this pandemic. The AIDS crisis is not over. It's time for Congress to investigate the AIDS drug industry."


Eric Sawyer, a long-term survivor and one of the founders of ACT UP/New York, added:

"At a time when expensive drugs are prolonging the lives of many with this disease, it's outrageous that Clinton would call for Medicaid cuts and per-person caps-which will force many states to slash or even eliminate prescription coverage. This says to poor people with any serious illness, It's only worth keeping you alive if it doesn't cost too much."


Demonstrators gathered at 7:30 AM and marched down to Wall Street, escorted by hudreds of police. Several loud and colorful street theater actions occurred, while marchers chanted slogans such as "We die-they make money" and "Wall Street trades on people with AIDS!" Waves of activists decked out with costumes, mock caskets and thousands of pill bottles blocked check points, rushed the Exchange's doors and sat down in the streets, forcing the shutdown of several entrances.


During the nonviolent protest, eyewitnesses observed numerous instances of police assaults, both physical and verbal, against those involved in civil disobedience. Two of the arrested activists received head injuries inflicted by police. Bill Thorne of ACT UP/Golden Gate, a person with AIDS, and Michael Lent of ACT UP/Philadelphia, were both hospitalized.

UPDATE 1999: It is with regret to have to convey the news
that Bill Thorne DIED this August, 1999


The demands of the demonstration, articulated at a press conference before the action, included:


To the manufacturers of AIDS drugs:


To President Clinton and the Congress:


Funding of the federal AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) falls far short of the need to cover existing AIDS treatments in many parts of the country. Meanwhile, President Clinton has proposed $22 billion in cuts over the next five years to the Medicaid program, which covers health care for the very poor (after signing last years welfare restrictions that exclude many immigrants in poverty from health coverage), and Congressional Republicans are calling for similar reductions.


The March 24 demonstration concluded five days of AIDS activist events sponsored by ACT UP, including a two-day AIDS Activist Conference at Hunter College. __



police brutality at the demo


See also:

The first ACT UP Action: March 24, 1987, Wall Street, New York City