Activists ‘occupy’ office in US Congress to demand funding (VIDEO) — RT World News

Activists ‘occupy’ office in US Congress to demand funding (VIDEO) — RT World News

US Capitol Police arrested seven activists who “occupied” the entrance to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office on Monday morning demanding the Republican majority reauthorize PEPFAR, a global HIV-AIDS program expiring at the end of the month.

Several journalists filmed as protesters linked hands, sat down on the floor of the California Republican’s office, and chanted “Pass PEPFAR now, McCarthy!” over and over.

Police charged with protecting the building gave the protesters a polite warning, then proceeded to zip-tie seven of them and take them away. One officer told Politico they might be charged with “incommoding,” meaning inconveniencing traffic.

The activists belonged to the ‘direct action’ branches of two advocacy groups, HousingWorks and HealthGAP. 

Alyson Bancroft of HealthGAP told Politico that they picked McCarthy as a “strategic target” in their efforts to get PEPFAR re-authorized.

“When it comes to both the domestic cuts [to HIV funding] and the failure thus far to reauthorize PEPFAR in its current form, we’re seeing that the issues are coming from the Republican caucus, so we need leadership,” she said.

PEPFAR stands for “President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.” It was launched by George W. Bush in 2003 and has been renewed ever since. As of May 2020, it had provided $90 billion in funding for HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and research, making it the largest global health program prior to Covid-19.

Some Republicans in the House and the Senate have voiced objections to reauthorizing the program in the upcoming spending bill, arguing it indirectly supported advocacy of abortion abroad. Democrats claim this is not so and want the program to continue.

Several Republican pundits have also pointed out that the media have treated Monday’s stunt as normal advocacy and business as usual, while a Republican protest over the 2020 election was termed “insurrection” and resulted in criminal charges against over 1,100 people. A person who was not even at the US Capitol on January 6 was sentenced last week to 22 years in prison for “seditious conspiracy” to obstruct an official proceeding.

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