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2004-09-03

ACT-UP Activists Face Assault & Riot Charges for Protest Inside RNC

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11 members of the AIDS group infiltrated a talk by Andrew Card on Wednesday. The non-violent action led to mayhem on the floor of the Republican Youth Convention. Video has emerged showing a Republican knocking down an ACT UP activist and then kicking her repeatedly. No charges have been filed against him instead the victim and 10 other activists face years in jail for staging what was supposed to be a non-violent action. We talk to one of the arrestees. [includes rush transcript]

Eleven AIDS activists from the ACT UP group were arrested Wednesday after they breached the Madison Square Garden convention hall and briefly interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to young Republicans. They have now been charged with assault and inciting a riot.

But a report on Channel 7 WABC raises questions whether the activists themselves were the victims of assault. This is how WABC reported the incident on Wednesday.

  • Channel 7 Report on ACT-UP Protest
  • Kris Hermes, member of ACT UP Philadelphia. He was one of eleven members of ACT UP to be arrested for disrupting a presentation by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card during the Republican Youth Convention on Wednesday. The 11 are facing charges of assault and inciting a riot.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: On Wednesday, 11 AIDS activists from the group ACT UP were arrest after they breached the Madison Square Garden convention hall and briefly interrupted a speech by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to Young Republicans. They have now been charged with assault and inciting a riot.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined now by Kris Hermes who is a member of ACT UP Philadelphia. He was among the members of ACT UP to be arrested. Describe the protest.

KRIS HERMES: Well, we entered the convention to expose the naked truth about Bush’s policies on AIDS, and to urge him to call for 100% debt cancellation for at least 50 of the poorest nations in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you do exactly?

KRIS HERMES: Well, we sat on the floor in the New York delegation area and when Andrew Card began to speak, we blew whistles, stood up on the chairs, and chanted and held signs. There was a banner that was attempted to be unfurled, and then proceeded to be assaulted by Young Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? You continued to be assaulted. Because the charge is the other way around.

KRIS HERMES: Yeah. Unfortunately, there were no Young Republicans that were taken off with assault charges. However, we were not able to stand on the chairs for more than probably a minute before we were assaulted by Republicans around us.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now there were some camera video that showed one, at least one of the Republican young people kicking someone who was down. Kicking him repeatedly and admitting to kicking the person repeatedly.

KRIS HERMES: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Well Juan, let’s go to the Channel 7 report on WABC. They were there. They filmed this. This is their report. This is how they told the story on Wednesday. WABC’s report.

WABC REPORT: The White House Chief of Staff had just taken the stage when chaos erupted on the floor of the Republican Youth Convention. At least 10 protesters ripped off their shirts and coats to reveal anti-Bush signs. They unfurled a black banner criticizing Bush’s AIDS policy, as the crowd and the secret service closed in. Within seconds, the violence had begun. One young man was pushed off his chair. And we caught one Young Republican on camera shoving a female protester. He doesn’t stop there. Watch. He’s kicking her over and over as she falls to the floor.

AMY GOODMAN: That report from WABC. That’s very different from what the police account of this is, and they have the video documentation for those who are listening on radio right now. Kris? So how many of you were charged?

KRIS HERMES: There were 11 of us charged while doing a protest on the floor. We are part of the group that was also protesting the previous Thursday in a naked action in front of Madison Square Garden.

AMY GOODMAN: Why naked?

KRIS HERMES: We wanted to bring attention to Bush’s policies on AIDS by explaining that the naked truth is that he is not doing what’s necessary to address the pandemic that’s killing millions of people on the planet.

JUAN GONZALEZ: How long were you held, and what were you charged with?

KRIS HERMES: I was held for approximately 30 hours, and I was charged with inciting a riot, assault, and disorderly conduct.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, my knowledge of assault, at least, is that you have to have someone actually injured to have to even be charged with assault.

KRIS HERMES: There is a claim that an anonymous person has claimed that they were hit by someone.

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