AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power
Act Up! painted on a section of the Berlin
Wall, on display at the Newseum in Washing-
ACT UP, or the 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 was effectively formed in March,
1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Ser-
vices Center in New York. Larry Kramer was
asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker
series, and his well-attended speech focused
on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out
against the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC),
which he perceived as politically impotent.
Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had
resigned from its board of directors in 1983.
According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a
question to the audience: "Do we want to
start a new organization devoted to political
action?" The answer was "a resounding yes."
Approximately 300 people met two days later
to form ACT UP.
The following chronological accounts of ACT
UP actions are drawn from Douglas Crimp’s
history of ACT UP, the ACT UP Oral History
Project, and the online Capsule History of
ACT UP, New York.
On March 24, 1987, 250 ACT UP members
demonstrated at Wall Street and Broadway to
demand greater access to experimental AIDS
drugs and for a coordinated national policy to
fight the disease. An Op/Ed article by Larry
Kramer published in the New York Times the
previous day described some of the issues
ACT UP was concerned with. Seventeen
ACT UP members were arrested during this
On March 24, 1988, ACT UP returned to
Wall Street for a larger demonstration in
which over 100 people were arrested.
On September 14, 1989, seven ACT UP
members infiltrated the New York Stock Ex-
change and chained themselves to the VIP
balcony to protest the high price of the only
approved AIDS drug, AZT. The group dis-
WELLCOME” referring to the pharmaceutical
sponsor of AZT, Burroughs Wellcome, which
had set a price