Four Georgetown graduate students participated in a rally for greater funding toward AIDS prevention in Lafayette Park Friday, during which 22 demonstrators were arrested on the White House sidewalk for protesting without a permit.
None of the students arrested at the event, which was organized by the Student Global AIDS Campaign, were from Georgetown, said Amy Rinner (MED ’10), who attended the demonstration.
Lt. Scott Fear, spokesperson for the U.S. Park Police, said the organizers of the rally had notified the park police prior to the protest, with the intention of being arrested during their demonstration.
“They came over to the White House sidewalk and knew they were going to be arrested,” Fear said. “They told us how many were going to be arrested.”
Fear said that the students who planned the event obtained the required permits for the demonstration, but that the permission was revoked when a group of protesters crossed over to the White House sidewalk, which is off limits to protest under the Code of Federal Regulations.
“It was an act of non-violent civil disobedience,” Fear said.
The protesters remained on the sidewalk after being given the three warnings required by law to leave, Fear said.
Fear said that the arrested demonstrators will be required to either pay a fine or appear in court.
According to Melike Harfouche (SFS ’08), chair of advocacy for Georgetown UNICEF, 40 to 50 people took part in the rally altogether. Participants carried boards with statistics and talked with reporters.
Rinner said that the rally participants, who chose to demonstrate in front of the White House, did so to make a point. She said that the protesters were pushing the Bush Administration to fully fund the Global AIDS Fund and focus attention on issues related to the pandemic in the United States, such as the shortage of health care workers.
“One-third of American doctors are foreign-trained, showing just how short we are to meeting the demand for healthcare workers in the U.S.,” Rinner said.
Rinner said she chose to be a part of the rally to point out “how important this issue is to Americans and what we think should be done about it.”
She said the protest also served to highlight the AIDS pandemic in the District of Columbia.
“There is a remarkably high prevalence of HIV/AIDS,” she said.
Rinner said she thought the rally was a good way for all involved to show their support for this issue.
“It was a great experience to take time out from studying and show concern for a current health care problem,” she said.
– Hoya Staff Writer Emily Solis-Cohen contributed to this report.