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AIDS Group Protests at CDC; 50 Arrested

January 10, 1990

ATLANTA (AP) _ About 150 backers of an AIDS protest group tried to block entrances to the federal Centers for Disease Control and the street in front of it Tuesday, charging that the CDC underreports AIDS cases.

About 50 people were arrested, said police Maj. Jim Wilson. He said some would be charged with criminal trespass and some with damaging government property.

Fourteen people who climbed onto a building overhang were arrested by DeKalb County officers, who removed the ladder they had used to scale the building.

The group, the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, contends that the CDC, where much of the nation’s AIDS research is done, underreports AIDS- related illnesses and does not use a broad enough definition of the AIDS virus.

″It’s far too narrow. It’s out of date,″ said Chip Rowan, a protester from Atlanta. ″They are seeing it (AIDS) in the clinics, cervical cancer and TB. It’s not news to the people in the clinics. It’s news to the people in the CDC.″

Protesters waved signs reading, ″AIDS Won’t Wait, Expand the Definition,″ and ″CDC: Inaccurate, Inadequate and Intolerable.″

The group also claimed the CDC gives incomplete information about ways the AIDS virus can be contracted.

CDC spokesman Don Barretth said the protestor’s claims were incorrectly leveled at the agency. He said the CDC has met with ACT UP members before, and hopes to do so again in a less confrontational setting.

A few counterprotesters carried signs reading, ″Gay is Not OK″ and ″You Don’t Have to Be Gay.″

One, Mark Weaver, executive director of the Family Association of Texas, accused ACT UP members of strong-arm tactics. At one point, he was mobbed by ACT UP members who taunted Weaver and his supporters.

″They want to be heard,″ Weaver said after the protestors left him, ″but they don’t want anyone else to be heard.″

In addition to blocking streets and entrances to the CDC complex near Emory University, demonstrators pounded on doors and ran a banner up the CDC flagpole. DeKalb County officers, many wearing latex gloves, did not start making arrests until protesters climbed onto the building.

On Monday, about 300 homosexual activists converged on the Capitol in Atlanta to protest Georgia’s 156-year-old sodomy law and to urge the repeal of similar laws in other states.

Police said 63 people were arrested at that demonstration, sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

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