Protestors Target McCarthy’s Office, Get Arrested

( – Protestors briefly took over House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building recently, leading to seven arrests. The activists, one of whom wore a shirt with the words “HIV Positive” in rainbow lettering, were trying to convince the congressman to push for the passing of a funding bill that would provide money to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The program has been the front line offense against the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide since 2003, but rumors that its funding also supports abortions has led to conservative concerns over continuing the effort.

The protestors stormed the lawmaker’s office on Monday, September 11, chanting, “Pass PEPFAR now, McCarthy!” They linked arms as they sat on the office floor and refused to leave even after security officers warned the group that they would be taken into custody if they persisted. Capitol Police then arrested the four men and three women on charges of unlawful entry. Housing Works CEO Charles King and HealthGap Executive Director Asia Russel were among those arrested.

PEPFAR, the brainchild of George W. Bush’s administration, allocates US tax dollars to fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. The program reaches over 50 countries and has saved an estimated 25 million lives worldwide. It works continuously without congressional authorization, although representatives can decide whether or not to continue approving funds. Congress must decide by September 30 whether they will send more money PEPFAR’s way. Republicans have been hesitant to move forward over concerns that up to $7 million of the program’s money might also go to providers who perform abortions. The House has until the end of the month to agree on its budget, and then a partial government shutdown could occur.

Some Conservatives are comparing the seven protestors to J6 insurrectionists, questioning whether the peaceful demonstrators might deserve lengthy prison terms for occupying a House official’s office space.

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