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AIDS activists arrested after hoisting banner near U.S. Capitol

By Paul Courson, CNN
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Thu July 19, 2012
About a dozen people used metal poles, wire cables, and rappelling gear to hoist a large banner demanding a tax on billionaires to help pay for the fight against AIDS.
About a dozen people used metal poles, wire cables, and rappelling gear to hoist a large banner demanding a tax on billionaires to help pay for the fight against AIDS.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Demonstrators erect a banner near the Capitol Reflecting Pool
  • They want a tax on billionaires to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS
  • Taking down the structure they erected takes cooperation

Washington (CNN) -- About a dozen demonstrators used metal poles, wire cables, and rappelling gear to hoist a large banner high in the air within sight of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. It called for a tax on billionaires to help pay for funding to fight AIDS.

Police arrested nine people, all charged with taking part in an illegal demonstration, U.S. Capitol Police Lt.. Kimberly Schneider told CNN.

The rally was organized by a group called Housing Works, which describes itself as "a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS."

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In a statement sent to CNN timed with the demonstration, the group said it was protesting "the federal ban on funding syringe exchange programs and the dearth of funds for HIV/AIDS treatments, while Wall Street continues to make exorbitant profits and the war on women's reproductive rights still wages on."

At least two women were among those detained by police.

Fire department personnel responding to the scene near the Capitol Reflecting Pool at first seemed puzzled about how to take down the poles, which had been fashioned into tripod supports at least 20 feet high. They were lashed together and spaced apart, and supported two protestors who held lines that suspended their banner.

Emergency equipment on hand included a rubber rescue boat, extension ladders and stretchers, but it was a team with large bolt cutters that moved in first. As a fireman snapped one cable, one of the demonstrators suspended from the structure shouted for them to stop.

"That's going to hurt someone," he told authorities. "We know what we're doing." He explained that to cut another cable would cause both structures to collapse, sending both people tumbling to the ground.

The demonstrators then agreed to come down on their own, using their rappelling gear to slowly descend. Once free of the apparatus, U.S. Capitol police placed them in plastic handcuffs and loaded them into detention vans.

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