WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police arrested 26 AIDS activists on charges of illegally demonstrating inside the Capitol rotunda Thursday morning after the protesters temporarily shut down the popular tourist destination.
The 15 men and 11 women were charged with unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct, said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman.
The activists, who could be heard chanting "clean needles save lives," linked themselves together with plastic chains at around 10 a.m., Schneider said. They wore T-shirts and carried signs urging Congress to fund AIDS programs.
The activists were from various AIDS awareness groups across the Northeast, according to a statement by the organizations. Before the protest, the groups indicated that they planned to be arrested.
The groups said they wanted President Barack Obama to fulfill several campaign promises, including lifting a ban on funding for needle-exchange programs, committing more money to global AIDS efforts and fully funding AIDS housing programs.
"Thousands of people have died in the past decade because clean syringes aren't available," Jose De Marco, an HIV-positive member of ACT UP Philadelphia and Proyecto Sol Filadelphia, said in the statement.
"President Obama, who many of us worked to elect, promised to follow the science and lift the federal funding ban on needle exchange, but his budget explicitly included the ban. Now it's up to Congress to show real courage where the president has not."
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