(VitalNews.org) – A small group of protesters stormed the office of Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on Monday, demanded a reauthorization of an emergency AIDS relief plan, and were then arrested by Capitol Police.
Organized by two different activist groups, Housing Works and Health GAP, protesters entered the House Speaker’s office located in the Rayburn House Office, not the one in the US Capitol. The protesters shouted slogans, repeating “Pass PEPFAR now McCarthy!” They then sat down on the floor of the congressman’s office, continued to chant, and held signs.
PEPFAR stands for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, credited with saving millions of lives. September 30 is the deadline for lawmakers to decide on whether or not to grant additional funds to the program, but some Republicans aren’t keen on its replenishment because they’re suspicious that the program is indirectly supporting abortions.
Seven protesters were arrested for “unlawful entry” by the Capitol Police, who made a statement that “4 males and 3 females” were taken into custody after refusing “to cease demonstrating.”
One of those arrested was Charles King, the CEO of Housing Works, one of the groups that organized the demonstration. In a statement, King said that PEPFAR has been essential to helping” developing nations “flatten the curve” on the transmission of HIV, and that “AIDS isn’t over until it’s over for everyone.” He added that the US “committed” itself “to the international goal” of stopping the disease “by 2030,” which he said cannot be done without PEPFAR.
Many conservative and Republican voters criticized the response to the activists, wondering if they would receive the same treatment as protesters who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Some jokingly called the office sit-in an “insurrection,” poing fun at the portrayal of Jan. 6 protesters by the media and Democratic lawmakers.
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