All the rage - Page 2

25 years ago, queer activist network ACT UP redefined AIDS, changed politics, and saved lives. Can the rebooted ACT UP/SF mobilize a new generation?

An ACT UP/San Francisco banner drop at last years Pink Saturday party on Pride weekend

Kramer's own polemical, overwhelming 1985 play about the dawn of the disease in New York, The Normal Heart, was revived on Broadway in 2011 (it played here at A.C.T. last year), snagged three top Tony Awards, and is being made into a movie with Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, and possibly Julia Roberts. The artwork of hyperkinetic grafitti artist Keith Haring, who designed some of the most recognizable anti-AIDS iconography before succumbing to the disease in 1990, was everywhere in 2012, from Google Doodles and iPhone cases to collectible sex toys and a retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Dangly pink triangle earrings and "Silence = Death" t-shirts and buttons, emblems of ACT UP, are popping up on hipsters all over.

And, um, Justin Bieber wore an ACT UP T-shirt to the 2012 CMT Country Music Awards?



Last year, a 28-year-old sex worker and activist named Cyd Nova, along with others who had been involved with the Occupy movement, started contacting ACT UP veterans about the upcoming 25th anniversary of ACT UP that March.

"My friend Kentaro and I had developed a common obsession with ACT UP because we saw it as reflection of what is missing in our community," he told me. Nova had discovered ACT UP when he was 17, as he made an attempt to "understand who I was in the world I was living in." When he began researching the ACT UP Oral History Project online and watching New Queer Cinema classics like the 1993 HIV-themed musical Zero Patience he "found it all incredible."

"The emergence of ACT UP represented to us this time when queers stood together when faced with a genocide of indifference, devoting their lives to fighting for the those of their friends, lovers, family and themselves. This stands in contrast to gay and lesbian culture of the 2000s — the focus on marriage and class climbing. For people of color, sex workers, drug users, and transgender people HIV still exists. I wanted to get involved in some deeper way."

Kentaro updated ACT UP graphics with a new "Act the Fuck Up" design, and there was enough traction about the anniversary idea among curious young people and elders to plan a "NOT OVER: 25 Years of ACT UP" panel at the Women's Building in March, followed by a march in April through the Castro and Mission protesting the evictions of people living with HIV/AIDS, condoms being used as evidence to prosecute sex workers, and the Catholic Church's homophobic and sex-phobic policies.

Both the panel and the march were well-attended, and another panel — this time featuring ACT UP veteran Sarah Schulman reading from The Gentrification of the Mind, her impassioned memoir of how queer rebellion to the AIDS crisis vanished into conservatism and consumerism, — overflowed its Luggage Gallery setting. Several of the attendees decided to start holding regular meetings and full-on reactivate the movement, reviving the name ACT UP/San Francisco.

The new ACT UP/SF joining with OccuPride at the 2012 Pride Parade. Photo by Liz Highleyman

These events were followed by more old school-style ACT UP actions: slogan-bearing banner drops at Pink Saturday in the Castro, guerilla street art bombs, a "Cumdumpsters of the GOP" condom toss at Folsom Street Fair. A nexus of affiliation emerged among fellow radical queer groups like OccuPride, Homonomixxx, and active ACT UP chapters in other cities. In December, a small group managed to enter Bay Area-based pharmaceutical giant Gilead's headquarters to protest the exorbitant pricing — $28,500 per year — of its new, more convenient HIV drug Stribild. An action is planned for February 25 to deliver letters protesting Stribild's price to Gilead, and another for ACT UP's 26th anniversary in March.


After the ACTUP GG/SF split in 1991, ACTUP SF disintegrated while GG kept up its very narrow focus activism. What happened then follows a pattern of disruptive infiltration where folks who came into the open movement for the VI AIDS conference. The number of folks in ACTUP SF quadrupled after that activism. A small number of very charasmatic and well off gay white men with no apparent means of economic support took the lead in exploiting divisions between the 'AIDS as a social justice pandemic' and 'get drugs in the arms of white gay men with health insurance as soon as possible' camps. As if there as any contradiction or incompatibility between the two.

The reason why ACTUP SF was successful 25 years ago is for the same reason that Occupy showed signs of life 2 years ago, because the community had skin in the movement and the movement reflected broad consensus of the community.

In the intervening two decades, post Seattle 99, the government has changed its posture towards protest, ignoring it all.

Without an organic base of support from the community and without reflecting the needs of the entire community, not just those with nonprofit coverage, it is going to be impossible to test what new forms of activism, adaptations to increasing state intransigence and violence, can be successful.

But that would involve old school activism, putting the community and its needs first, rather than the domesticated catch and release advocacy for "the most vulnerable" of the nonprofits. 25 years ago, everyone was the most vulnerable.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 8:02 am

I can tell you that now.


When was the last time threatening someone with violence ended well for you?

Or Dan White? Or Mark Chapman? Or Lee Harvey Oswald? Or John Hinkley? Or Sirhan Sirhan?

Posted by anon on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Please consider a reading comprehension test as a requirement to post comments onto this website. Nothing too hard, maybe elementary school level.

Otherwise, illiterate commenters will misunderstand or misrepresent your articles and reader comments.

For a glaring example, look no further than the above comment posted on Feb. 25 at 4:21 pm, which completely distorts the earlier comment posted on Feb. 20 at 8:02 am.


Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

putative strategy, and you got called out on it.

Owned. Deal with it.

Posted by anon on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

"For a glaring example, look no further than the above comment posted on Feb. 25 at 4:21 pm, which completely distorts the earlier comment posted on Feb. 20 at 8:02 am."

Hello. That's a resident troll at 4:21. Their intention was to completely distort. They excreted some bait. Best to ignore.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

defend your own indefensible posts.

Posted by anon on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

I am not a pacifist.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

Your earlier point made that quite clear.

Funny thing is, you're a skinny older guy who wouldn't last 2 minutes in a real fight

Posted by anon on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

Green and being violent.

You won't eat meat because it involves killig animals but you are perfectly happen to be violent to other beings if it suits you?

Portland will love you, marcos.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

The United States is a very violent place, Americans are amongst the most violent people in the global north.

If you oppose violence, then you are anti-American and should consider relocating to a country where there is less violence, like, say France?

The market demands violence and just who do you think you are to stand in the way of what the market commands?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

support violence? That's good to know because, in your anon incanrations on this thread, you were trying to deflect that suggestion.

Can you describe a time when being violent achieved a political objective for you? Be sure to include a list of the injuries the other party suffered.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

I support the Second Amendment requirement that a well regulated militia bear arms. I look forward to millions of armed, organized citizens!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

will provide an analysis showing the distorting nature of the illiterate commenter's statement.

Marcos' original comment read, " is going to be impossible to test what new forms of activism, adaptations to increasing state intransigence and violence, can be successful."

The illiterate commenter, anon, began his reply by misquoting the original comment: "Impossible to test what forms of violence can be successful"?

Note how anon deleted the words "of activism, adaptations to increasing state intransigence and" in order to claim that marcos' original statement about responses to state violence is actually advocating activist violence.

At best, anon's actions display a lack of reading comprehension. More likely, he deliberately misquoted marcos' statement for his own nefarious reasons.

This example is why the SFASC is reluctantly advocating the passing of a reading comprehension test as a prerequisite for posting onto this website.

For a long period of time, the SFASC has been closely monitoring this and other San Francisco websites for examples of stupidity as part of its campaign to combat stupidity and its ill effects on internet communication.

From its copious analysis, the SFASC believes unequivocally that anon is the most stupid commenter on any San Francisco website.

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

There was no lack reading comprehension going on here. You empower the trolls by acknowledging them. Either ignore them or drown them out, there is no middle ground here.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

But at least you gave up that dumb "posting anon" idea. You have to be a lot smarter than you are to get away with that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

I actually think that sort of comment is to be encouraged for the much-needed levity it brings to this forum -- and it fits in with my favored theory with regard to how to best deal with trolls; i.e. ridicule.

Anyhow, I also noticed that marcos took the poster to task, but then was minorly victimized by typography trollery. It would have been more productive use of marcos' effort if he'd put it towards expounding on monetary or housing policy or some such.

The funny thing is that the SFASC commenter was actually defending marcos from misattribution. I honestly wonder why in response marcos would not be appreciative instead of needlessly stern.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

Pearls, swine, you know.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

... exactly that way...

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Pearls/swine applied to pontificating on policy, not on thanks to SFASC, apologies for the ambiguity.

I was businesslike with SFASC, maybe I should have gotten down on my knees more demonstrably?

Thanks, SFASC!

Posted by marcos on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

clearly you advocate violence as a viable stratgey.

Denying you said that is bad enough. Going anon to pretend to be somebody else agreeing you is even worse.

Posted by anon on Feb. 25, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

of this website's comments, the SFASC notes that commenter anon uncritically supports the most violent aspects of American society; that is, aggressive warfare and unbridled police power.

Anon's attempt to deflect his own prediliction for violence by misrepresenting someone else's comments reinforces the SFASC's finding that anon is the most stupid commenter on any San Francisco website.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 12:57 am

Don't I get a "+1" for making the trolls roll in their own filth?

Posted by marcos on Feb. 26, 2013 @ 7:47 am

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