By EUN-KYUNG KIM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Friends of a local AIDS activist marched his body along Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday before coming to a stop outside the White House to accuse President Clinton of being a ``murdering liar.''
About 100 people participated in the half-mile procession for Steve Michael, founder of the Washington chapter of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. Organizers said Michael, who died May 25 of AIDS, requested the ``political funeral'' to protest the Clinton administration's AIDS-related policies.
``Bill Clinton is a murderer, and this death, and tens of thousands of others, must be laid at his doorstep,'' said Ann Northrop of New York. ``He is a liar, and he is letting people with AIDS die on purpose. We will not rest until this crisis is over.''
ACT UP and other AIDS activists accuse Clinton of going back on promises they say he made in his presidency's early days to make fighting the disease a priority of his administration. They also criticize Clinton for not being sufficiently aggressive about AIDS education programs in schools or providing the poor with guaranteed health care access. His decision against creating a federally funded needle exchange program for drug addicts also was denounced Thursday.
Pallbearers wearing black arm bands carried Michael's casket. They walked behind a single drummer and Michael's partner, Wayne Turner, who held an altered picture of Clinton with a long, Pinnochio-like nose. Turner walked arm-in-arm with Michael's mother, Barbara Michael, who held her own photo - a black-and-white photocopy of her son as a baby.
The casket was opened in front of the White House. Michael's mother stroked her son's forehead and gave it a kiss; Turner leaned in close, whispered a few words, and instructed organizers to begin the eulogies.
Friends hailed Michael as a soldier of human rights while reviling Clinton.
``In 1992, the occupant of that house made very clear and specific promises, commitments, to people living with HIV disease, ... and where are we now?'' said Bill Freeman, former executive director of the National Association of People with AIDS.
Turning and pointing to the White House, Freeman said: ``This is a president who continually said the right thing and did the wrong thing.''
The protest stood in stark contrast to past ``funerals'' the organization has held in front of the White House. Two years ago, more than 300 protesters gathered to watch as ashes of another AIDS victim were thrown onto the mansion lawn.
In comparison, the march for Michael was relatively calm. Police blocked off traffic as protesters carrying the casket and a number of black banners, including one that said ``Over our dead bodies,'' walked by onlookers.
Michael's body was being returned to a funeral home after the protest, Turner said. It will be cremated Saturday.
Initiative 59 is a medical marijuana ballot initiative that is being
circulated by ACT UP to be placed on the November general election ballot
in D.C. It was Steve's final project. ACT UP needs to collect 17,000 valid
signatures by July 3. They are in immediate need of any and all
If you live in the the DC area, volunteer to collect signatures or to help organize the signature gathering efforts and answer the phones. NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and other drug policy reform groups have national headquarters near D.C. If each member of these groups donated one 4 or 8 hour period of time in the next month, ACT UP would easily be able to qualify for the ballot. Funding is also available to pay signature gatherers if necessary.
If you can't help in person, forward this message to others you know who live near DC.