Inside Video Coverage
McCain Sunday January 6th.
Who: 2 dozen activists from ACT UP Philly, ACT UP/NY, Housing Works, NYCAHN, SGAC, Health GAP, Private Health Insurance Must Go! Coalition, FXB, PIH, and probably others that I'm forgetting.
What: McCain town hall with about 1,000 people in Salem, NH high school gym
What we did:
Many of us in NH were incredibly frustrated that McCain has rebuffed all of our questions over the past few months to win his support for $50 b and his endorsement of the Early Treatment for HIV Act, so we decided to protest his town hall. We planned to go in as 3 teams of 7-8 people, and disrupt with chants of "people with AIDS are dying, and you're not even trying". AIDS treatment now!". We arrived an hour and a half early, and sat in three sections in the front of the gym.
McCain came in, and while he was being introduced, the first wave began chanting, and held up signs that said "Early Treatment for People with HIV in the US" (couldn't come up with anything better on 2 hours of sleep) and "$50 billion for global AIDS". They walked out orderly, and while they were walking out, McCain said that he would be willing to talk with anyone from that group that was left in the room. I stood up and said that I was from that group. Folks from my team (team 3), stood up with me and held up their signs. McCain and I went back and forth (I wanted him to talk about it then, he wanted to wait for the questions), and finally we sat down and waited for the question portion.
About 5 minutes into his speech, after McCain said that the greatest threat to the world is Islamic terrorism, the second group stood up and started chanting. There was no way for them to walk out, and they were escorted out after several minutes of chanting.
McCain then started taking questions, and probably took a dozen or so. We shouted out that McCain had promised us a question, but he ignored us. He took a question from a woman who said that "Pres. Bush has done many good things on AIDS, and its' amazing that liberals who can't attack him on substance start attacking him for being heartless." McCain responded that he was in favor of AIDS funding, but didn't want to increase it until we could be sure it wouldn't get siphoned into Swiss bank accounts. He specifically referenced Zimbabwe as an example of a country with a corrupt government that we should not give money to.
McCain then asked a representative from the ONE campaign to address the crowd. The ONE guy said something like "I'm a little off my game after that distasteful showing from before. Sen. McCain has been a leader on global AIDS, and he always talks about the poorest 1 billion people and AIDS in every event. So I want to thank Sen. McCain for his leadership on AIDS, and that's about all I can say. This man is wonderful."
McCain, at the very end, called on me. I had had my hand up, patiently, for the entire Q&A session. The campaign would not give me a microphone. The folks from team 3 held up their signs while I said:
The woman is right that Pres. Bush had given more money to AIDS. We are here b/c we've asked you over and over again to support funding for AIDS, and you have not responded to us, you just keep saying "you'll look into it".
McCain interrupts to rudely say "Do you have a question?".
Yes, Sen. McCain will you support $50 bn over 5 years to fund things like the Global Fund, which gives money to community organizations as well as governments, so that people in Zimbabwe don't have to die because of bad government? And we need you to co-sponsor the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which would expand medicaid to people with HIV so they don't have to get sick to get treatment. This would cut AIDS death rates in half in this country.
McCain responded by saying:
I don't know of any community organizations working in Zimbabwe that aren't corrupt. But if you can find one, then I'll look into it.
That's all he said. He did not respond to the ETHA question at all, and barely addressed the $50 bn question. This is not a direct transcription of what he (or I) said, but we'll have a link to good videos soon, hopefully.
We've got a lot of work to do, this guy is a real contender for the presidency, and is a sitting Senator who can do things now to save lives. On to South Carolina, where we need to continue to hold his (and other candidates' feet to the fire)!
Covered Elsewhere: Boston Globe.
Contribution made by Kaytee Riek.