New York (AP) --Longtime AIDS activists who have been chanting in the streets for a quarter century joined with supporters of the much newer Occupy Wall Street movement Wednesday in a rally and march through lower Manhattan to call for better health services.
New York Stock Exchange workers jeered from the sidewalk as handcuffed protesters wearing Robin Hood costumes were loaded into police vans after chaining themselves together and blocking traffic in the area around Wall Street. Police used chain cutters to remove them.
Protesters said they were marking the 25th anniversary of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power — the organization known as ACT UP — which was founded in March 1987 when the group marched on Wall Street to protest the high cost and low availability of HIV medications.
Eric Sawyer, one of the founding members of the group, which has grown to include chapters worldwide, said Wednesday that 25 years later the organization returned to the financial district for good reason.
When it comes to AIDS and housing services, he said, "big business is not funding anything, but they got the bailout."
Another longtime member, Julie Davids, said it made sense for the organization to march with Occupy supporters.
"ACT UP has always looked at the AIDS crisis through an economic justice lens and has always recognized that obstacles were rooted in greed and profit motive," she said.
Some protesters dragged couches and chairs into the middle of Broadway and chanted "Housing saves lives!" to draw attention to what they said was the lack of adequate housing assistance available to people with HIV. In all, several hundred people marched from City Hall, flanked by police in riot gear and on scooters.
The group was calling in part for a tax of less than a penny on all Wall Street transactions, to be used for medical and social services for people with HIV and AIDS, as well as for universal health care.