On April 11th a group of activists was arrested protesting Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s plans to slash AIDS funding and ban the funding of needle exchange in the District of Columbia. That same day the Mayor of Washington, DC and several members of the City Council were also arrested in a separate demonstration protesting these same policy “riders” in the Republican budget. But they received very different treatment—the Mayor and friends were released with a $50 fines. Instead, the AIDS activists are being prosecuted by President Obama's US Attorney on charges that could carry up to 6 months in jail!
Court documents allege they did nothing more than sit down near Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office and refuse to stop chanting. But now these activists are being unfairly prosecuted and required to submit to drug tests--a policy that unfairly impacts people living with AIDS and other diseases.
Antonio Davis was one of the demonstrators. He is living with HIV and knows what it would mean to cut millions from AIDS treatment programs and ban needle exchange. Antonio has no criminal record and is an outstanding leader of his community. He’s also been facing a lot of health challenges stemming from HIV—has had recent surgery and is on heavy-duty medication that includes the use of marijuana under a doctors order. Because of this, though, the US Attorney is barring him from the regular “diversion” program and is taking him to trial!
This decision is out of the hands of the judge and lies with Obama’s US Attorney for DC—Ron Machen.
TELL THE US ATTORNEY: Drop the Charges and end the policy of demanding drug testing for non-violent activists!
Check out some media:
The Huffington Post: HIV/AIDS Activists Complain Of Unfair Treatment By U.S. Attorney's Office
DCist: AIDS Activist Faces Trial After Use of Medical Marijuana Sinks Hopes for Dismissal of Charges
POZ Magazine: U.S. Attorney Requires Drug Tests for AIDS Protesters
The Hill: AIDS activists allege discriminatory treatment following Capitol arrest
Drop the charges against Antonio Davis and other AIDS activists
I'm joining over 100 leaders of AIDS and civil rights groups to ask the US Attorney to intervene to stop the unfair prosecution and unjust drug testing policies being implemented against AIDS activists in DC.
Antonio Davis and the other activists were arrested during a demonstration against cuts to AIDS services and the imposition of a federal and local funding ban on needle exchange for the District of Columbia. Court documents allege they sat down near Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office and refused to stop chanting, and thus they have been charged with unlawful entry—a charge that carries up to 6 months in jail. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, I am concerned by reports that these activists are being unfairly prosecuted and that the US Attorney's office has instituted a policy of drug testing that unfairly impacts people living with AIDS and other diseases.
The charges should be dropped against all defendants in this case—who have complied with all requests from the US Attorney's office. The policy of linking the offer of standard deferred prosecution with drug testing should be dropped, especially in free speech cases.