Text by Rex Wockner. Wockner News photos by Andrés Duque, except San Francisco: photo by Michael Petrelis.
Five hundred people marched and 27 were arrested as ACT UP celebrated its 20th birthday on March 29 with a demonstration demanding a single-payer health care system and drug price controls.
"I couldn't believe so many people turned up," said ACT UP founder Larry Kramer. "This was an extraordinary start for the new ACT UP, with a turnout bigger than any of us hoped or imagined."
The activists marched from the Federal Building to City Hall to Trinity Church to the New York Stock Exchange to the Charging Bull sculpture at Bowling Green park, where 27 people were arrested when they blocked traffic with a "die in." Among those taken into custody was POZ magazine founder Sean Strub.
The marchers chanted: "No more bullshit, health care for all," "Health care for people, not for profit" and "Same old bullshit, 20 years later."
"This protest kicks off a campaign by activists to ensure that universal access to health care becomes a major campaign issue for candidates during the 2008 presidential race," said spokeswoman Cathy Renna.
The marchers included activists from ACT UP/New York, ACT UP/Philadelphia, the African Services Committee, Housing Works, the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign, Physicians for a National Health Plan, Healthcare NOW, and the New York City AIDS Housing Network.
"It was a mixture of ACT UP old and new, and Housing Works and PWAs [people with AIDS]," Kramer said in an interview.
"I saw old friends I hadn't seen in years and didn't know were still alive.
"We're going to hold an organizational meeting [April 12] about who we want to be and where we want to be going ... to make important decisions on how to govern ourselves and choose our missions.
"I hope ... we can go on from here and build it into something extraordinary once again," Kramer said.
A much smaller anniversary demonstration took place in San Francisco the same day as the New York march.
Co-organizer Michael Petrelis said about 50-75 people marched on the sidewalk from 18th Street and Castro Street to a site on Market Street where they staged a sidewalk die-in. There were no arrests.