AIDS Activists Arrested After Shutting Down Capitol Rotunda
Updated 11:09 a.m.A group of 26 AIDS activists chained themselves to each other in the Capitol Rotunda on Thursday morning, startling visitors, shutting down the landmark area and prompting their arrest by Capitol Police. The group, which was protesting President Barack Obama’s failure to get rid of a ban on funding needle exchange programs, arrived at the Rotunda around 10 a.m. By 10:45, police had arrested 11 men and 15 women. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said they would all be charged with unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, loud and boisterous. Schneider said the protesters bound themselves together with plastic chains. They then became “really noisy,— she added, and officers decided that they should be arrested. Those arrested are being transported to a processing facility at 67 K St. SW. The activists, who come from a coalition of groups, could be heard yelling “clean needles save lives— as they were being handcuffed. Eustacia Smith, a volunteer with Health Global Access Project, said Obama had made a “number of promises— on AIDS funding and so far had not delivered. Those arrested come from several groups, including Health GAP, Housing Works, DC Fights Back and ACT UP Philadelphia. The Rotunda — a landmark in the Capitol building and mainstay of any visitors’ tour — remains restricted, detouring dozens of groups. Capitol Police sent out an alert at 10:35 a.m. advising all staff to avoid the Rotunda area.Jessica Brady contributed to this report.