Bahai News - 4 in ACT UP Charged in Shoving/Conflict between
factions over AIDS policy
Tuesday, May 16, 2000
4 in ACT UP Charged in Shoving
Christopher Heredia, Chronicle
Conflict between factions
over AIDS policy flares anew with incidents
San Francisco -- Prosecutors filed misdemeanor charges
yesterday against four members of the AIDS activist group ACT UP San
Francisco for allegedly bursting into a public health forum last month
and shoving a woman who helped plan the event.
Members of the mainstream AIDS groups that sponsored the forum
said the incident was the latest in an escalating conflict with members
of ACT UP San Francisco, which in the 1980s fought for AIDS drugs and now
has aligned itself with a small faction of ``AIDS dissidents'' who believe
HIV doesn't cause AIDS.
Battery and trespassing charges were filed against David
Pasquarelli and Andrea Lindsay; Jason Swindell and Michael
Bellefountaine were charged with trespassing.
The charges arose from a meeting April 17 sponsored by Project
Inform and Survive AIDS, both AIDS education and advocacy organizations.
Pasquarelli and Lindsay allegedly shoved Project Inform outreach worker
Judy Leahy-Hogan, who injured her right knee when she fell.
ACT UP San Francisco believes that mainstream AIDS groups like
Project Inform and Survive AIDS promote ``poison'' drugs that cause
the disease and that the AIDS epidemic is a medical fraud promulgated
by pharmaceutical companies, scientists and doctors.
``There are dozens of AIDS groups in this town who despite
their differences work together toward a common cause,'' said Martin
Delaney, founding director of Project Inform. ``Somehow these guys
are determined to fly in the face of that.''
Derek St. Pierre, a lawyer representing the four ACT UP San
Francisco members, denied that his clients had engaged in violence.
``They were expressing their political opinions at an open
public forum,'' St. Pierre said. ``Typically, these kinds of charges are
used against political activists to squelch dissent.''
Fred Gardner, a spokesman for District Attorney Terence
Hallinan's office, said, ``The D.A.'s not trying to send any message.
He's just upholding the law.''
Battery is punishable by a maximum of six months in county jail
and a $2,000 fine. The maximum penalty for trespassing is six months in
jail and a $1,000 fine.
Earlier this month, a San Francisco County Superior Court judge
granted temporary restraining orders against five ACT UP San
Francisco members, forbidding them from coming within 100 yards of
Project Inform offices, employees or events.
Presiding Judge Alfred Chiantelli will consider extending that
restraining order for three years at a hearing May 24. Members of the
group were banned for several years from going near employees of San
Francisco AIDS Foundation after they allegedly dumped used cat litter
on the foundation's executive director.
According to prosecutors and witnesses, members of ACT UP San
Francisco tried to get into the meeting April 17 at the Baha'i Center
on Valencia Street, screaming, chanting, waving signs and throwing
hard pills at people in the audience.
``I've participated in political demonstrations, and what they
did was not that,'' said Leahy-Hogan, whose badly bruised knee was
treated at Kaiser. ``It was violence. They can believe anything, but
they can't hit people.
``It's important that people stand up and say we'll have zero
tolerance for violence,'' she said.
The forum was attended by physicians and people with AIDS
discussing treatment ``vacations'' from AIDS drugs.
Prosecuting the ACT UP San Francisco members is ``the right
step,'' said Delaney, who said he had pills thrown in his face at the
meeting. ``Every other method we've tried has failed. No one has ever
tried to stop them. We've been tolerant, hired security, got
restraining orders and it just keeps coming up.
``There is a lot of support in the community for drawing a line
and saying it's going no further.''
Chronicle staff writer Jaxon Van Derbeken contributed to this
©Copyright 2000, San Francisco Chronicle
Page last updated/revised 051700
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page