The U.S. Capitol Police arrested 12 AIDS activists inside House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office Monday morning and charged them with unlawful conduct.
Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the protesters were charged with unlawful conduct and released from custody as of late Monday afternoon. There were no injuries, she said.
The dozen protesters walked into Cantor’s district office in the Cannon House Office Building shortly after 10 a.m., chained themselves to one another and sat on the floor so as to keep the office door from being shut, according to Jennifer Flynn, the managing director of Health GAP, one of the groups participating in the protest.
The activists then chanted “Budget cuts kill! Fight global AIDS!” and were removed by the Capitol Police about 30 minutes later, Flynn said.
The protest was organized by four groups: Health GAP, ACT UP Philadelphia, Housing Works and the Student Global AIDS Campaign, the same organization that protested a speech by Cantor (R-Va.) at Harvard University in February.
Flynn said the activists were protesting cuts to international and domestic HIV/AIDS program funding in the fiscal year 2011 budget deal negotiated by President Obama and congressional leaders last week.
Details of the plan were not available as of early Monday evening, but Health GAP and the other organizations involved in the protest said that the likely $8 billion in cuts to foreign assistance would put at stake the lives of 1 million people suffering with HIV/AIDS and related diseases worldwide; the deal may also ban the District from using its own funds for needle-exchange programs.
Asked why the AIDS activists were targeting Cantor when House Republicans were only a third of the parties involved in the budget deal, Flynn said further protests were likely to take place, noting that about 30 activists also protested last Thursday in front of the New York office of Sen. Charles Schumer (D).
“This is just the Monday after the deal was struck,” Flynn said.
On Monday evening, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and members of the D.C. Council were arrested after blocking Constitution Avenue NE near the Capitol in protest of the District-related cuts and restrictions in the budget deal.