Protesters Act Up For Aids Funds -- `Die-INS' Cut Off Street Traffic
Demonstrators chanted and shouted about the need for more financing for AIDS research yesterday as they wound their way through downtown Seattle streets.
Twice during the three-hour rally, the demonstrators - members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT-UP - stopped their march at busy intersections, tying up traffic for much of the afternoon.
About 50 demonstrators used megaphones to loudly call attention to the need for more government spending for programs related to acquired immune deficiency syndrome. They drew few to their audience, even though they began their demonstration outside the jammed Westlake Center.
``AIDS funding is mercilessly being cut,'' Michael Davidson told the crowd. ``But they are spending money on a war in the Middle East.''
One measure of particular concern to the demonstrators is a law Congress passed earlier this year, the so-called Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act.
The act authorizes about $600 million in emergency money for AIDS care. But people at yesterday's demonstration said they worry that Congress will divert some of that money to finance other projects.
The bill, proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was named in honor of Ryan White, the 18-year-old who died in April after a six-year fight against AIDS, which he acquired from a blood-clotting agent used to treat his hemophilia.
White gained national attention in 1985 after he was barred from attending an Indiana junior high school because of AIDS. He went to court and won the right to attend classes.
Most passersby who did stop to watch yesterday's rally were sympathetic to the group's cause, but some were critical of its methods.
``I don't think this is a particularly useful approach,'' said Dr. Douglas Buvee, a Seattle physician. ``The thing I object to is they aren't being sensitive to the people who would like to drive down the street and who support their efforts to advance knowledge and funding regarding AIDS.''
But others countered that the urgency of the problem justified the group's means of calling attention to it.
``I think it's a courageous effort,'' said Richard Reid, a Seattle retailer who stopped to watch the rally. ``I am proud they have the courage to take a stand against the bureaucracy we have in power right now. A public demonstration is a good thing, but I hope they don't have to resort to violence.''
At 1 p.m., about 35 demonstrators, carrying protest signs and banners, lay down in the intersection of Pine Street and Fifth Avenue.
As they shouted slogans such as ``Every 10 minutes someone dies of AIDS,'' a few members made chalk outlines of the demonstrators' bodies on the pavement.
One person later referred to the act as a ``die-in,'' apparently to underscore the deadly nature of AIDS.
The demonstrators later moved to Pike Place Market, where they repeated the ``die-in,'' then wrapped brightly colored tape around 10 protesters who remained seated for more than 30 minutes in the middle of the street.
Police blocked off traffic and followed the marchers. Even though organizers stated that one goal was to trigger arrests, none was made and the rally broke up peacefully about 3 p.m.
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