During a protest sponsored by AIDS activists on Wednesday, the Capitol Police arrested at least 29 demonstrators calling for Congress to lift the federal ban on funding for syringe exchanges.
The protesters held sit-ins outside members' offices, including those of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., as part of a National Day of Action. They aimed their ire at a provision in the latest spending bill, which funds the government through Sept. 30, that reinstated the ban. The law prohibits federal funding for needle exchanges, a ban that was originally adopted in 1989 but lifted in 2009.
“Our government should be embarrassed as this year’s host of the International AIDS Conference to have sneaked this into an unrelated bill under the cloak of night last December,” said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, Inc., a group advocating to end the ban. “The U.S. cannot be any shining example to the rest of the world on how to end the AIDS epidemic when we’re still fighting foolish policies that reject what we know works.”
Ten of the protesters were arrested for unlawful entry into the Capitol; the other 19 were arrested for demonstrating within the Capitol complex.