Protesters demanding faster access to AIDS treatments were arrested by police today as they attempted to take over the headquarters of the Food and Drug Administration in an act of civil disobedience.
Police officers, wearing surgical gloves and helmets, started rounding up the hundreds of demonstrators and herding them into buses shortly after 8:30 a.m. Some protesters blocked the buses from leaving for 20 minutes.
Authorities arrested at least 120 protesters, and demonstration leaders said they were aiming for 300 arrests by day’s end.
“Hey, hey, FDA, how many people have you killed today?” chanted the crowd, estimated by protest organizers at between 1,100 and 1,500. The protesters hoisted a black banner that read “Federal Death Administration.”
The AIDS activists shut down the large facility by blocking doors, walkways and a road as FDA workers reported to work. Police told some workers to go home rather than wade through the throng.
One demonstrator set off a small smoke bomb, and later a window on the FDA building was broken. An effigy of President Reagan was raised on a flagpole.
“We are here for all the people with AIDS but we are also here for all the other people with life-threatening illnesses who need drugs now,” said protester Dan Snow, a wheelchair-bound AIDS victim from Chicago.
Snow, who is taking the FDA-approved AIDS drug AZT, said he purchased three types of experimental AIDS drugs at the protest.