ACT UP Lockdown Closes Vaccine Recruitment Site

23 July 1999

Activists hang banner, chain themselves together to stop AIDS vaccine experiments in Thailand and Africa.

ATLANTA Thirty angry protesters led by a contingent from ACT UP San Francisco took to the streets of Atlanta today to protest what they call "unsafe, unnecessary and unethical" AIDS vaccine experiments currently taking place in the U.S. and Thailand and planned for nations of Africa.

At high noon, strike forces of activists in bright red ACT UP SF biohazard T-shirts split into strategic teams to achieve two goals: hang a large banner from a commercial billboard outside the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (ARCA) and get inside their offices to disrupt the business as usual activity of enrolling gay and black Atlantans into AIDS vaccine experiments and clinical trials of anti-HIV drugs. ARCA is the official Atlanta recruitment site for the testing of a product called AIDSVAX, a genetically-engineered, protein-based HIV vaccine manufactured by VaxGen, Inc. of South San Francisco.

ACT UP members Tate Swindell and Josh Trentor launched the protest by quickly scaling the scaffolding of a large billboard facing a busy Atlanta highway to unfurl the 40-foot banner that warned the "U.S. AID$ Vaccine is Global Murder." Meanwhile, an angry mob assembled outside ARCA offices on Ponce De Leon Avenue to demand an end to all AIDS vaccine research as well as a Congressional investigation into the corruption of government agencies, pharmaceutical companies and AIDS organizations that promote HIV.

Suddenly, a group of six activists rushed the main doors of ARCA chanting "Killer vaccine pushed on blacks! What do we do? ACT UP FIGHT BACK!" ACT UP members Ronnie Burk, Andrea Lindsey, David Lovejoy, David Pasquarelli, Todd Swindell and infamous pie-thrower Gerard Livernois stormed into the reception area of ARCA with Kryptonite bicycle locks fastened around their necks. Once, inside they joined the bicycle locks together with steel bands into a formation called an octopus. The six then faced away from each other, fell to the ground, and refused to move for over three hours. Other ACT UP members then entered and ransacked the offices by covering doors, windows and computer equipment with neon-colored stickers and by writing "AIDS is Over!" and "HIV is a lie!" on the walls with permanent marker. Panicked ARCA officials called the police as staff members headed for the parking lot. Under intense pressure from media to respond to the protestors allegations about the dangers of AIDSVAX, ARCA officials decided to shut down the recruitment site early and not press any charges. Protestors left peacefully and no arrests were made.

"We came to Atlanta, home of the Centers for Disease Control, to tell America that HIV is a tragic biotechnological mistake and to warn the black and gay communities of this city not to risk their health by participating in any AIDS vaccine experiments," commented ACT UP member David Pasquarelli. "Our action today is a mild prelude to what we have planned for San Francisco when we get back to town."

Video and press photos (digital and paper) of the Atlanta Lockdown are available upon request.

David Pasquarelli: (404) 876-5003 ext. 304
Michael Bellefountaine: (404) 876-5003 ext. 308

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