What is C2EA and what do we do?
The Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA) is a diverse, exciting coalition of people living with HIV & AIDS, their advocates and their loved ones. Together, we're demanding that our leaders exert the political will to stop the epidemic, in the U.S. and abroad, once and for all.
On April 11th a group of activists were arrested protesting Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s plans to slash AIDS funding and ban the funding of needle exchange in the District of Columbia. That same day the Mayor of Washington, DC and several members of the City Council were also arrested in a separate demonstration protesting these same policy “riders” in the Republican budget. But they received very different treatment—the Mayor and friends were released with $50 fines. However, the US Attorney is prosecuting the AIDS activists on charges of up to six months in jail and, for some, threats to their professional licenses.
This was a free-speech action—the US Attorney simply claims they sat down and chanted—no violence, no destruction, just speech. Nine months, five court appearances, three prosecuting attorneys later, every promise to take care of the case has been broken by the prosecutors and they’re taking the activists to trial—wasting everyone’s time and taxpayer money. The activists are simply asking U.S. Attorney Ron Machen to drop the charges in exchange for a fine or community service.
Please sign on to the attached letter calling on US Attorney Machen to drop the charges. Send your sign-ons to: Christine Campbell at email@example.com by February 15, 2012. (Please include your name, affiliation, and city/state of residence.)
*Below is a copy of the attached letter:
Ronald C. Machen, USA
Judiciary Center Building
555 Fourth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Cc: Eric Holder
Dear Mr. Machen:
It is with deep concern that we write, as leaders of AIDS and civil rights organizations, about the cases of Antonio Davis, David Goode and the other co-defendants in the case.
It is our understanding that these AIDS activists were arrested in the Cannon House Office Building during a demonstration against cuts to AIDS services and the imposition of a federal and local funding ban on needle exchange for the District of Columbia. Court documents allege they sat down near Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office and refused to stop chanting, and thus they have been charged with unlawful entry—a charge that carries up to 6 months in jail. Regardless of the veracity of these claims, we are concerned by reports that these activists are being unfairly prosecuted and that your office has instituted a policy of drug testing that unfairly impacts people living with AIDS and other diseases.
· Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chair Kwame Brown, and others were arrested the same day demonstrating against the same policies and yet were fined and released rather than prosecuted; we question why these activists are instead being sent to trial.
· Drug testing individuals, like Mr. Davis or Mr. Goode, arrested in non-violent free speech cases causes undue pain and suffering, discriminates against patients who use medical marijuana manage their illness not to mention being an inappropriate violation of privacy. It should also be noted that the medical practice that is keeping Antonio out of a deferred prosecution agreement has been expressly legalized by DC voters.
Both have submitted letters to your office from highly respected physicians documenting their use of medical cannabis as the only effective treatment for AIDS-related symptoms. We are deeply worried that the US Attorney would condition the dropping of charges on people living with HIV not following their doctor’s medical advice; and further concerned that the US Attorney’s office would now send these activists to trial because they cannot present marijuana-free drug test results.
· It is deeply unjust to take action against genuinely ill people speaking out for their own lives and those of others. As Deputy Attorney General James Cole noted in his June 2011 memo, “it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen…”
· We are also concerned about reports that your office has changed prosecuting attorneys multiple times—and that expectations have changed with them. Defendants including Matthew Kavanagh, acting in good faith on agreements with one prosecutor, should not be forced to re-do community service or adhere to extended “stay away” orders that limit their liberty.
We ask that you personally intervene in these matters. We believe the charges should be dropped against all defendants in this case—who have complied with all requests from your office. We further ask that you review the policy of linking the offer of standard deferred prosecution with drug testing—which, especially in free speech cases, we feel is inappropriate.
Thank you for your attention.
(list in formation)
Christine Campbell, DC Fights Back, (DC)
Charles King, Housing Works, (NY)
Sue Udry, Defending Dissent Foundation (MD)
David Ernesto Munar, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (IL)
Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (DC, CA)
Rachel Moshman, DC National Lawyers Guild (DC)