Act Up

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NIH | 14308

Act Up (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power) began in 1987 in New York. Larry Kramer addressed a meeting there and urged more action on fighting AIDS. Kramer criticised the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which he regarded as politically impotent. (Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983.) He asked the audience: “Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?” The answer was “a resounding yes.” Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP.

Act Up was deliberately organised on leaderless and almost anarchic lines as a committee-structured network of activists. Non-violent direct action, often using vocal demonstrations and dramatic acts of civil disobedience, were used to focus attention on the crucial issues of the AIDS crisis.

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San Francisco activists David Stern, Camo, who only went by one name at the time, and Michael Ryan participate in the successful shut down of the national Food and Drug Administration headquarters on October 11, 1988 in Rockville, Maryland. Stern and Ryan have since died | Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter | 14309

A number of events and pickets were held, the most famous being on October 11, 1988 when it successfully shut down the Food & Drug Administration for a day, in which might have been the largest such demonstration since the Vietnam War.

Act Up is still operational.


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