Aids Protest At White House A Human Chain Circled The Grounds. Activists Decried Bush's Response To The Disease.

Posted: October 13, 1992

WASHINGTON — AIDS activists carrying simulated American flags with skulls and crossbones in place of stars ringed the White House yesterday to protest what they say is President Bush's weak response to the fatal disease.

The thousands of demonstrators, who formed a human chain with the aid of

6,000 feet of red ribbon, chanted, "Three more weeks, Bush will go."

But some questioned whether his Democratic challenger, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, would do any better in fighting AIDS.

Ed Des Rosier of Nashua, N.H., said he did not watch Sunday night's debate in which Bush, Clinton and independent candidate Ross Perot traded views on the AIDS epidemic.

"It's of no concern to me. They all lie," said Des Rosier. He said he was in the demonstration because he had friends who had died of AIDS and "I have to let the President know we are not happy."

Would Clinton be an improvement? "Yes. At least he's listening," said Des Rosier.

The mood was upbeat at the rally, organized by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or Act Up, and police reported no incidents. Park Police Sgt. Patrick Gavin said an estimated 5,000 people took part.

"We are politicizing the red ribbon," said Mike Petrelis, who helped organize the rally. "We are sending a message to the President and to any future administration that we will not tolerate AIDS business as usual."

Bush was campaigning in Delaware County, Pa., and uniformed Secret Service officers stood guard impassively on the grounds as the demonstrators pointed their fingers at the White House and shouted, "Shame."

The ring around the White House was completed when two columns of marchers, going in opposite directions, joined hands and ribbons on the Ellipse, south of the executive mansion.

Marchers carried signs with such legends as "George Bush, you make me sick" and "Barbara, did you hold our AIDS babies?"

In Sunday's debate, Bush defended his administration's response to the AIDS problem and said people should change their behavior to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Bush also pointed to wife Barbara's work with AIDS-infected babies as evidence of his effort to ease the AIDS problem.

Clinton said the government needed to put one person in charge of the response to AIDS. He also said he thought Bush's response on the AIDS question was "the longest and best statement he's made about it in public."

Perot said he would stress efforts to bring new AIDS drugs to the market.

Frederick L. Dyke, founder of the People With AIDS Theater Company in San Francisco, who said he was diagnosed with AIDS six months ago, called Bush's remarks "totally political" but added: "I don't trust any politician. Actions speak louder than words."

Amber Haag, a graduate student from Potomac, Md., said: "The reference to Barbara holding an AIDS baby just didn't hack it. He needs to get out on the street with the rest of us. Bush may not be infected, but he should be affected."

AIDS - acquired immune deficiency syndrome - gradually strips the body of its defenses against disease. There is no known cure.

The disease has killed about 175,000 Americans over the last decade.

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