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Target Pulls 'Silence = Death' T-Shirt After ACT UP NY Calls Store Out

model with silence = death t-shirt on

The group objected to commercial use of the iconic message.

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Target and a sales partner, the Phluid Project, have at least temporarily ceased selling a T-shirt with the famed ACT UP "Silence = Death" message after complaints from ACT UP New York.

In response to an inquiry on Twitter, ACT UP NY posted Friday that the companies had not asked permission to use the message and accompanying image of a pink triangle. The logo is in the public domain, as those who designed it intended, but the issue is that corporations are seeking to profit from it, ACT UP NY tweeted.

Target responded by taking the shirt off its website.

"This shirt was designed by our vendor partner, The Phluid Project, who is working directly with ACT UP to address their concerns," Target spokesperson Brian Harper-Tibaldo told The Advocate in an email. "The item is only available on Target.com and we've temporarily pulled it from our assortment until the concern is resolved."

Rob Smith, the gay, HIV-positive man who owns the Phluid Project, told the Los Angeles Blade that he had spoken to Target officials after he learned of the complaints on Twitter and that he was also communicating with ACT UP NY. His company specializes in genderless fashion and seeks to empower the LGBTQ+ community, he said.

In addition to the tweets, the controversy was first reported by Rolling Stone in an article available only to subscribers.

ACT UP NY has spoken out against corporate use of the "Silence = Death" message previously, as in a 2018 dispute with Nike, the Blade notes. The message has become one of the best-known images of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.