January 31—The New York chapter of ACT UP reports seven of its members were arrested at dawn this morning while hanging two massive banners in midtown and downtown Manhattan. The banners demanded that corporations carry the cost of treatment for their workers in poor countries and criticized the Bush administration’s lack of attention to AIDS issues.
The seven activists, among the first to be arrested in protests at the World Economic Forum, were taken to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the “Tombs” facility in lower Manhattan. Two had been released by Thursday afternoon, but ACT UP expects the others may be held until the meetings end.
Demonstrators are watching to see whether New York cops replicate what has become the prevailing strategy at global confabs, where hundreds have been arrested on charges that are later dropped or radically reduced. Kate Krauss of ACT UP described this “preventive detention” approach as an unconstitutional means of squelching dissent. “All you have to do is charge them with an exorbitant charge and they’re frozen,” she said.
A police spokesman said five of the demonstrators had been charged with criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, and another two had been nabbed on administrative violations. No information about the possibility of posting bail was immediately available.
In addition to the ACT UP members, a lone man from California was arrested for spraying graffiti on a Starbucks coffee shop.