Activist Dan Glass (pictured) on Act Up London’s Art Protest in the centre of the capital this coming Monday...
This coming Monday, history repeats itself in Trafalgar Square. Not gay-bashing or criminalisation of homosexuality, but activism returns in all its glory to this iconic international site for resistance, art and politics.
The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) started in London in 1972 to challenge oppressive sexual roles and launched with its own banner drop in Trafalgar Square. Two generations on in tribute to the GLF and HIV activism, we’re launching a new banner for ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) by artist Ed Hall with a selfie photo call. Commissioned by London Artists Projects in response to comments Nigel Farage made on HIV and immigration, ACT UP joins with The Glass is Half Full to encourage Londoners to post their photos on social media bringing awareness to this injustice and to the work of ACT UP once more.
ACT UP London is a revitalised chapter of the non-partisan international movement, founded in 1987, united in anger and committed to direct action to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 2015 ACT UP exists to challenge the 'Second Silence'
– the compounding problems of the rise in HIV transmission, the cuts to support services and the general belief that HIV was resolved in the 1990s. Discrimination is alive and well today as the Conservatives threaten HIV education and prevention services as part of the 'politics of austerity'. When UKIP leader Farage, was asked what sort of people should be allowed to migrate to Britain, he said "People who do not have HIV, to be frank. That’s a good start."
As a teenager in the nineties, when I was suicidal as a result of familial, social and educational prejudice, prejudice that seemed latent in the air all around me, I looked to groups such as Gay Liberation Front for strength. When I was 21 my face was slammed against the window of life, trying to make sense of my own existence, with the news of my HIV+ diagnosis - I turned to ACT UP for ideas. And today, when I see the closure of so many LGBT clubs, bars and community centres and the brutal cuts to HIV education and prevention services – I look to those around me for compassion.
I hold so dear the politics of our predecessors and I know that without their activism the world would be a very different place. Unlike Pride, their refusal to depoliticise, be bought out or be seduced by power, and their commitment to see 'all oppressions as connected' have got us to where we are today. Many people think that the struggle is over, that LGBT rights have been won and that HIV is no longer the issue that it once was. This is both wrong and dangerous. Not only do we still face adverse social conditions that would have been familiar to activists of the past including hate crime, political forces invoking prejudice and renewed stigma, there is also a need for services to be maintained/improved, and a cure is yet to be found. All of this becomes harder in an age when our spaces for living and socializing are closing.
It’s time to take forward the mantle of hope in radical social change, organise and fight.
On World Aids Day ACT UP we dropped half a tonne of horse shit on UKIP's London office with a message to ‘stop spreading filth’.
UKIP were evicted. Recently and as part of a broader coalition ACT UP marched on Nigel Farage's pub where I co-hosted the 'Beyond UKIP Cabaret' including HIV anti-stigma classes at the front of the bar. Soon after Nigel Farage was defeated in his quest to become an MP in the General Election, and now in the tradition of the original GLF banner drop, ACT UP ushers in its own message of art meets activism on Trafalgar Square.
Long may it continue.
Act Up For Love is on Monday 15th June @ Trafalgar Square between 6pm and 8pm
You can register to march under Ed Halls banner with Act Up London at Pride London by emailing [email protected]
Words by DAN GLASS