By Tanya Pamplone

San Francisco Examiner 12 Feb. 2002

Two controversial activists were released this weekend after their bail was slashed from $1.1 million to $220,000.

David Pasquarelli, a member of the renegade group ACT UP San Francisco, and independent AIDS activist Michael Petrelis were met by 10 supporters upon release from San Francisco County Jail at 9:30 p.m. Friday. The two men were being held on more than 20 felony and misdemeanor counts.

Judge Parker Meeks Jr. reduced bail last week during a preliminary hearing. Bail for Petrelis was reduced from $500,000 to $100,000. Pasquarelli's bail dwindled from $600,000 to $120,000.

Pasquarelli and Petrelis were arrested Nov. 28 on charges including criminal threats, harassment and stalking. They are accused of making threatening and obscene phone calls to Department of Public Health officials, the Chronicle and University of California, San Francisco employees. Charges of a bomb threat are also referred to in court papers.

"It's good to finally be free," Pasquarelli said. "I look forward to presenting my case to a San Francisco jury, where I am confident that I will be found innocent of these outrageous charges."

Pasquarelli said he and Petrelis are unable to go to the ACT UP San Francisco office space because it is near the AIDS Health Project. Meeks ruled as a condition of bail that neither man could go within 150 yards of the facility, which is a few doors from ACT UP San Francisco on Market and Laguna streets. Pasquarelli also agreed to not attend any "public meetings."

Their arrests have been disputed in activist circles nationwide. Some claim the excessive bail and charges are a violation of the men's civil rights, while local AIDS activists maintain they have been harassed for years by Petrelis and Pasquarelli and their arrests were long overdue.

The renegade group, which believes HIV is not the cause of AIDS, is known for in-your-face tactics such as dumping kitty litter on the executive director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and pouring blood on AIDS researchers.

Michael Siever, who is a member of Survive AIDS and of AIDS Activists Against Violence and Lies, a group that formed in response to ACT UP San Francisco's activities, said he is looking for a long-term solution to the activities of the notorious activists.

"The ultimate outcome we are looking for is to get these guys to stop harassing and terrorizing people," Siever said. "They have been threatening people, disrupting meetings and making people scared for years. Dissent is fine, disagreement is fine, but what they do scares the hell out of people."