AIDS Activists Held On One Million Dollars Bail

28 Nov. 2001

AIDS Quarantine Flap Results In Multiple Felony Charges Against Controversial Activists

San Francisco -- Two AIDS activists were arrested today following a hearing on temporary restraining orders stemming from a series of allegedly harassing phone calls. Michael Petrelis and ACT UP San Francisco member David Pasquarelli shouted "Stop AIDS Quarantine" as police placed them under arrest. Charged with numerous felonies, Pasquarelli and Petrelis are being held for an exorbitant half million dollars bail each for their involvement in a national campaign to speak out against federal quarantine of people with AIDS.

The activists have recently gained notoriety in their efforts to challenge remarks made by Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, San Francisco Department of Public Health official and Center for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service agent, promoting the use of quarantine to control the spread of AIDS. In addition, the activists were calling attention to the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act which would give the federal government unprecedented power to quarantine people due to infectious disease. The activists charge the Health Powers Act, being introduced in the California State Legislature by Keith Richman, (R) Granada Hills, is loosely worded and can be interpreted to include HIV and AIDS. Numerous groups nationwide have mobilized to modify this bill to exempt HIV and AIDS. "For the past three weeks we have been trying to call attention to this pending quarantine act," commented jailed activist David Pasquarelli. "Not until national groups got on board did this extremely important issue register with the local gay press or gay leadership."

Indeed, activists are quick to point to a recent editorial, appearing in the November 15th edition of the Bay Area Reporter, from seventeen prominent AIDS activists which downplayed the charges made by people sounding the alarms about the Health Powers Act. Yet, a week later the Sunday November 25th edition of the San Francisco Chronicle ran a front page story regarding the Health Powers Act and quarantine of HIV positive people, confirming the activist's concerns.

Pasquarelli and Petrelis appeared before Judge Ronald Quidachay concerning a number of restraining orders resulting from a series of calls allegedly from the pair. The two were nabbed by police as over twenty ACT UP San Francisco members filed out of the court room. When it became clear the activists were to be arrested, the marble halls of the courtroom echoed with chants of "Stop AIDS Quarantine, ACT UP Now!" Pasquarelli and Petrelis are being charged with a number of felonies and each are being held on $500,000 bail. Activists are quick to point out the bail is excessive and usually intended for people who pose a flight risk or a danger to society.

"The SFPD cowardly ambushed David and Michael inside the courthouse," commented ACT UP member Todd Swindell. "Both are well known activists. Neither are flight risks or a threat to the community. They should be released on their own recognizance, immediately."

ACT UP San Francisco members fear that the recent terrorist attacks will foster an atmosphere where million dollar bails and felony charges will become the norm for actions that should be First Amendment protected speech. ACT UP members vow to continue their efforts to bring attention to the pending quarantine legislation, including increasing pressure on local officials to exercise their power today to protect future generations tomorrow from this quarantine act. The next hearing for Pasquarelli and Petrelis is set for December 20 at 10:30 AM in Dept. 206, 400 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

Contacts: Todd Swindell -- (415) 637-HOMO
Michael Bellefountaine -- (415) 864-6686

ACT UP San Francisco
1884 Market Street * San Francisco, California 94102
Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 *