Village Voice - August 8, 1989
If some 400 cops were yanked from their normal rounds and
pressed into duty guarding the city's most important newspaper --
smack in the middle of the mayoral campaign in which the paucity
of police on the beat has become a major issue -- it would be
rather bizarre of the rest of the press took no notice, don't you
agree? Yet that's what happened when, last Tuesday, 150 members
of ACT UP demonstrated on front of New York Times publisher Punch
Sulzberger's residence at 1010 Fifth Avenue and then marched to
West 43rd Street.
This demo was preceded by a Sunday zap in which outlines of dead
bodies were stenciled on the streets around Sulzberger's pad, and
the neighborhood decorated with stickers emblazoned, "All the
News That Kills." By the time ACT UP's troops arrived for
Tuesday's picketing, they found the sidewalk in front of chez
Sulzberger torn up and barricaded, and a waiting army of police
who forced the demonstrators onto a side street.
"We were astonished at such a massive police presence for a
peaceful protest," says ACT UP spokesman Jay Blotcher. "There
were paddy wagons, communications wagons, undercover cops wearing
fluorescent wristbands everywhere."
When ACT UP paraded down to the Times building, they found a
phalanx of cops blocking access to 43rd Street. Only after
threatening a sit-down in Times Square were the protesters
finally allowed to picket on the sidewalk opposite the Times.
(The NYPD says there were 200 police at each end of the demo,
which means they outnumbered demonstrators nearly 3 to 1.)
"AIDS Crisis Escalates While N.Y. Times Sleeps" was the headline
on the leaflet ACT UP distributed, which asked: "Why, instead of
actively investigating the work of federal health organizations,
does the Times merely rewrite [their] press releases? ... Such
compliance makes the Times a mere public relations agent for an
ineffective government.... Why did the Times, in its June 29
editorial (Why Make AIDS Worse Than It Is?) dismiss a new federal
study finding a 33% under-reportage of AIDS infections in the US?
This callous editorial assured its general readership that AIDS
will be over soon, once infected members of undesirable risk
groups die off."
ACT UP has requested a meeting with Sulzberger, Max Frankel, and
top editors to demand "that the Times begin aggressive reporting
of potentially lifesaving medical treatments" and "a journalistic
investigation into the government's dismal response to this
health crisis." Frankel's office said, "He is on vacation and
has not seen their letter." Sulzberger is also on vacation.
AP says their daybook listed ACT UP's demo, but only KISS-AM and
WBAI aired reports; the Times, of course, was so well insulated
from its angry readers by the boys in blue that no whisper of the
siege (or of the remarkable deployment occasioned) penetrated the
columns of the newspaper of record. The TV blackout was total,
the other dailies silent as graves.