Three AIDS activists protesting budget cuts threatened by the fiscal cliff were arrested Tuesday afternoon after they stripped in the outer office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to authorities.
The U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement that the women were charged with lewd and indecent acts, a misdemeanor. Police said they did not know whether Boehner was in his office when the protesters converged shortly after 12:30 p.m. and disrobed.
Boehner’s spokeswoman did not immediately comment.
The protesters were led by a group called Vocal-NY, whose director said he sent as many as 50 activists, many with with AIDS or HIV, which causes AIDS, to the speaker’s office. He said four women and three men went inside and all took off their clothes.
“We wanted to strip away the rhetoric of the fiscal cliff,” the director, Sean Barry, said by phone from New York. He said that threatened cuts could raise taxes and put an end to promises “of an AIDS-free generation” and leave tens of thousands without the ability to treat their disease.
Barry said that the U.S. Capitol Police told the naked protesters that they could avoid arrest if they put their clothes back on and left. Barry said four did so; the three who were arrested did not.
“With all the clamor around the fiscal cliff, we’re concerned that real lives left in the balance will be lost,” Barry said. “We felt we should do something outrageous to get our message across.”