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Why ACT UP Is Protesting 2020 Hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand


After the Senator’s campaign fundraiser with a Pfizer executive on Sunday, the activist group demands change.

This past Sunday, March 31, ACT UP NY mobilized to protest Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's 2020 campaign fundraiser at Pfizer executive Sally Susman's home in New York City. Sally Susman is the chair of Pfizer's political action committee and executive vice president of "corporate affairs," or lobbying.

In the beginning of March, we joined a coalition of activists to call out Pfizer's aggressive price hike of over 41 of their life-saving medicines, including HIV-related treatments, by 6.3%. Groups of this coalition included Students for a National Health Program, Metro New York, Healthcare Equity Action League of New York, Democratic Socialists of America, and Rise and Resist. Holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for their price gouging has been at the core of our mission since our inaugural protest of Burroughs Wellcome for the price of AZT, the first-ever AIDS treatment. When we read that Gillibrand (who has had a long history of accepting pharmaceutical campaign funding), was planning to hold a fundraiser at Sally Susman's Gramercy Park townhouse, we knew we had to take action.

It is unacceptable for a candidate to proclaim that she supports "Medicare for All" and "Healthcare for All" while taking money from Big Pharma. Chants from the protest included "Gillibrand You Can't Hide, Why Are You on Pharma's Side?", "Kirsten Gets the Bucks, Patients Out of Luck!", and "Gillibrand We Will Remember, Pharma Money in November!". Despite our efforts to share our demands with her staff a week prior to the action, and also engage with her in person outside of the fundraiser, Gillibrand actively avoided any dialogue or discussion with her constituents.

Our list of demands to Gillibrand are as follows:

  1. Condemn Pfizer's recent price hike on live-saving drugs.

  2. Commit to federal limits on all prescription drug prices, including Pfizer's products.

  3. Reject any and all money from pharmaceutical industry executives.

  4. Refuse to host a fundraiser with any executive of Pfizer's Political Action Committee.

We will continue to protest and speak out against any 2020 presidential candidate who accepts money from pharmaceutical companies, regardless of party affiliation. As long as politicians accept money from Big Pharma or their employees, there will never be major efforts by lawmakers or the executive branch to regulate the price of life-saving drugs and treatments for people living with HIV. We need representatives who will work to protect their constituents, exercise their right to march in on patent-holding pharma monopolies, and radically reform our healthcare system.

Founded in 1987, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. ACT UP meets every Monday night at 7:00 pm in New York City at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street off 7th Ave. Through a combination of direct actions, media work, lobbying, and coalition-building over its 30 year history, ACT UP has maintained a global response to AIDS and drawn attention to the diverse communities impacted.

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