Members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP on Wednesday disrupted the speech of White House chief of staff Andrew Card at the Republican National Convention in New York City, chanting, "Bush lies, stop AIDS, drop the debt now." The activists gained access to the floor of the convention, and about one minute into Card's speech stripped off sweatshirts to reveal T-shirts with the same slogans they were chanting. They shouted and blew whistles so loudly that Card's speech was stopped until the protesters were taken away by security. Twelve protestors were arrested by the Secret Service, which has jurisdiction over the convention venue. One protester is charged with assault, according to the Secret Service, and charges against the others are pending. An ACT UP spokeswoman says the protesters had valid floor passes, but she did not elaborate.
Wire services report that the activists physically clashed with Republican delegates who were still on the convention floor after a youth event headlined by twins Jenna and Barbara Bush; one delegate reportedly received minor injuries in the scuffle.
"We continue to call on the Bush administration to support cancellation of the global debt owed by poor countries to international banks and donor countries," said Sharonann Lynch of ACT UP about Wednesday's protest. "Right now, sub-Saharan African nations are pouring $15 billion a year into repaying debt to wealthy nations. That money could and should be used to provide treatment to the millions of people on the continent living with HIV/AIDS. The Bush administration must move to save the lives of people in the world's poorest countries by supporting 100% debt cancellation now."
Many of the protesters Wednesday were the same activists arrested last Thursday for protesting naked outside of Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican convention.