Article by Candace Y. A. Montague, The Examiner

OBAMA! FENTY! CAN’T YOU SEE? FUND THE FIGHT! STOP HIV!” — They were young, loud, bodacious, and angry. A collective body of AIDS activists in conjunction with DC Fight Back, Act Up Philadelphia, The Campaign to End AIDS, Health GAP and a plethora of other non-profit organizations electrified the streets of downtown DC on Tuesday. The DC Fights Back rally and protest was held between two main statues of power in DC, the White House and the John Wilson Building (city hall). On lookers were stunned to see more than 150 protesters, advocates, and activists holding up traffic while making their message known.

WHAT DO WE WANT? HOUSING! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!!” — The message was more than just a plea for housing. It was a wakeup call for President Obama to keep his campaign promise of providing funding for HIV patients and to Mayor Fenty to fix a “broken system”.

It began as a mock funeral to symbolize the funerals of the 5,500 people who will die from AIDS in a day.

Representative John Conyers of Michigan stopped by to show his support. “We are here to keep President Barack Obama on the right track and to not be influenced by outside forces.” The procession carried coffins from the north end of Lafayette Park in front of the White House to Pennsylvania Ave, which symbolically had the AIDS red ribbon hanging between its front pillars. In traditional funeral fashion, religious songs were sang and eulogies were delivered about how AIDS has taken many lives already and will take many more until a solid plan is in action. Reverend Jeffrey Jordan of Metropolitan Community Church in Philadelphia and Reverend Carolyn Boyd-Clark of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in DC officiated the service. Activists and followers took to the streets following the funeral to march to Freedom Plaza, directly across the street from the Wilson Building.

Barack Obama, in a campaign speech on World AIDS Day in 2007, promised to provide $50 billion by 2013 to fight the pandemic and contribute to the Global Fund. He also pledged to, at least, double the number of HIV positive people on treatment. He backed this pledge with legislation passed before the 2008 Presidential election. Now the people of DC Fights Back are demanding answers. Sylvester Dobbs, Executive Director of Phoenix II Drug and Alcohol Recovery in Philadelphia stated, “There are a lot of homeless people with HIV and AIDS. It’s easy for someone to say that he [President Obama] needs to focus on the recession if they have a house. But if you’re homeless and all you got is to live outside, you feel that he should be focused on your needs.”

The rally continued at Freedom Plaza where protest leaders went inside to present Mayor Adrian Fenty with their demands.  The demands of DC Fights Back and their coalition of activists were to have a Washington DC Comprehensive HIV & AIDS plan that identifies the gaps, the services and targets and doubling of the city resources allocated for HIV/AIDS. Mayor Fenty was not in his office at the time. Insatiable leaders, Larry Bryant of DC Fights Back and Matthew Kavanaugh of Health GAP, blocked the doors to the office in a modern day sit-in. The two were arrested and released later on in the evening.

The mayor’s office has agreed to have a meeting with DC Fights Back to discuss their demands but no date has been set. But a message has been sent to the leaders of the capital of the United States. Now more than ever, the importance of funding and housing must be addressed. In the words of President Obama, the protesters of World AIDS Day in Washington DC are “embracing the fierce urgency of now.”

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