Thursday, March 22, 2007

ACT UP at 20

ACT UP is 20 years old.

To commemorate it, ACT UP New York is holding a demonstration at the same place where their first demo took place: Wall Street.

It's amazing to think that 20 years ago, I was avoiding those persistent stickers and posters all over Manhattan, the passionate debates at parties, and the news articles, which were then then mostly in the New York Native, published by Charles Ortleb, which had frequently wacky headlines about swine flu, dolphin diseases, etc. Oddly, its new editor, Mike Salinas, wrote some of the first articles about ACT UP, if not the first one. Mike later became my editor here in San Francisco after we both moved to SF and worked for the BAR.

Anyway, something in me cracked around 1989 (read Monkey Suits for a, ahem, fictional version of that), when I had more friends who were getting sick, and I simply could not avoid doing something. I literally bumped into an ACT UP demo in Greenwich Village where half a dozen acquaintances were shouting at a small church. I was given a poster, held it up, and started shouting. Over the next four years, my life became woven into the ACT UP culture. More on that later.

Liz Highleyman's Bay Area Reporter summation of the history and highlights of ACT UP mentions that only Philadelphia, Paris, San Francisco and New York chapters still exist.

When I moved to SF, I only attended a few meetings and participated in only one protest with ACT UP Golden Gate, at an industrial park in Genentech's parking lot. It certainly didn't have the "gravitas" of the urban NYC protests of my NY days.

As for ACT UP/SF, they broke from all protocols and went overboard with the crazed animal rights frenzy, the "HIV is a myth" baloney, their half a dozen members have been arrested for assault or are now dead, and they're now just a pot store.

Thanks for ruining the reputation of ACT UP, ya freaks.

As Larry Kramer said (paraphrasing, and in a different context), "The best thing about ACT UP is that anyone can join. The worst thing about ACT UP is that anyone can join."

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