Report from Washington DC
24 July 2012
It was Day 2 of the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC. The ITUC delegation to the Conference took time off to join a march organised by Robin Hood Tax campaigners in the US. A large number of conference participants from all over the world representing a variety of civil society organisations joined hands with them in the demonstration despite a persistent drizzle and the sweltering heat.
The demonstrators shouted 'Shame on you', pointing their fingers at big business, symbolised by Wall Street and banks in Washington DC. The Bank of America was a prime target where hundreds of protesters converged on the building on Maryland Avenue SW and shouted out slogans. The Chamber of Commerce on H Street NW and the US Treasury on Pennsylvania Avenue, too, attracted thousands of protestors who demanded that the US authorities introduce a financial transactions tax in order to pay for the fight against world poverty and HIV/AIDS. The traffic came to a halt at a number of points. 'It is not a tax on the people. It is a tax for the people' said one banner.
The trade union delegation joined the march at Mt Vernon Place and proceeded to the vicinity of the White House led by representatives of public services unions. Some protesters managed to tie red ribbons to the fence despite orders from the police to disperse.
One of the repeated themes of the conference was lack of resources for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Also, many presenters made the point that HIV/AIDS cannot be eradicated without also addressing poverty, inequality, human rights, and sustainable development. The end of HIV/AIDS is being delayed by regressive policies and lack of action by many governments, and also by the economic crisis and austerity measures. Some (too many, in my opinion) identified increased private sector charity as the way to fill the gap in resources. Many large transnational corporations played a high profile role throughout the conference. The presence of government and the public sector was much less visible.
In this context, the call for a financial transactions tax was extremely important. In the sessions I attended (ones focused on the economic and social policy issues), the proposal for a Robin Hood tax was raised and the response from participants was positive.
The We Can End AIDS mobilization for human rights and economic justice on 24 July was a highlight of the conference. The march of thousands through the streets from the conference site to the White House consisted of five 'feeder' demonstrations each organized around a different theme, each with a different route. As well as the 'Start a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street' feeder, the others were titled:
At various points the feeder demonstrations criss-crossed, creating great energy and excitement and showing connections between issues.
The Robin Hood tax march of more than a thousand, including hundreds of nurses with National Nurses United, stopped off at the offices of the Securities Industries Financial Management Association, Bank of America's DC offices and at the US Chamber of Commerce national headquarters.
At each stop, demonstrators gathered to voice their frustration and outrage at the financial sector for causing the economic crisis, for profiting from it, and hoarding billions of dollars that could be directed to addressing the desperate and growing needs of communities. A declaration, on behalf of Robin Hood, was taped to the doors of each of the institutions that we stopped at along the way.
The five demonstrations converged at the White House where some participants engaged in civil disobedience by tying red ribbons with dollar bills to the White House fence.
A huge contingent of AIDS community activists, nurses and other workers marched in Robin Hood hats to call attention to the need for a new tax on sales of bonds, derivatives, currencies and other financial products.
'We can end AIDS. And a Robin Hood Tax is key to getting there,' said Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health GAP. 'It is also the way to provide jobs, fight climate change and address a host of problems both here in the US and abroad.'
Jean Ross, a Registered Nurse and co-president of National Nurses United, addressed the crowd when the demonstration reached the White House. 'Our patients are without health care and they are hurting, especially people with HIV/AIDS. With a small tax on Wall Street we can heal America.'
Briefing document (900 words) issued 29 Jul 2012
This page http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-21283-f0.cfm
printed 24 May 2013 at 22:04 hrs by 188.8.131.52