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SF AIDS Activists Spend World AIDS Day In Jail

by Todd Swindell Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2001 at 12:27 AM
actupsf@hotmail (415) 864-6686 1884 Market Sreet

DAY 6 of San Francisco's jail detention two AIDS activists for challenging AIDS quarantine. Even more chilling is the lack of outcry from local direct-action activists. Will you be next?!?!?

errorFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 1, 2001

Contacts: Todd Swindell -- (415) 637-HOMO
Michael Bellefountaine -- (415) 864-6686

Political Prisoners of Corrupt AIDS Inc. Held on Punitive Bail
----
$500,000 Bail Remains, District Attorney Calls AIDS Activists Terrorists

San Francisco - On Friday November 30, 2001, Judge Julie Tang denied a motion to reduce bail for activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli, leaving an outrageously punitive $500,000 bail in place. The activists face a number of felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from a series of allegedly harassing and threatening phone calls spanning a three week period and are being held at the county jail at 850 Bryant Street until trial.

The court room was packed with over forty well known officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Epidemic Intelligence Service, the Department of Public Health, the San Francisco AIDS Office, the Mayor's AIDS Office, the SF Chronicle, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Inform, the University of California at San Francisco, their families, as well as private attorneys from Morrison & Foerster, Sinclair and Associates and Steinhart & Falconer.

In a case that has garnered international media attention, Pasquarelli and Petrelis, well known San Francisco AIDS activists who are both HIV positive, were alarmed by recent comments by DPH officials concerning the use of quarantine to curb the spread of HIV. Seeing it as no coincidence, the activists became even more alarmed when they reviewed the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, which would enable the federal government to quarantine US citizens on the basis of "infectious diseases," a term so loosely defined by the act that it could easily include HIV and AIDS. Instead of responding to the Emergency Health Powers Act, the local leadership chose to belittle, malign, and now arrest, the two people who were raising awareness around this issue.

Activists point out that David Pasquarelli is speaking with State Assemblyman Keith Richman concerning an HIV and AIDS exemption from the California version of the bill, due to be introduced in January of next year. Though ACT UP members now think that the California version of the bill will eventually include the HIV and AIDS exemption, they are still concerned about bills being introduced in the rest of the country.

Attorney Mark Vermeulen is representing David Pasquarelli, and Stuart Blumstein is representing Michael Petrelis. Both attorneys are looking forward to a hearing this Monday December 3rd, when the prosecution is to hand over further evidence. While District Attorney Terrence Hallinan was quoted in a recent San Francisco Examiner article as labeling the two activists as terrorists, former federal prosecutor Jerrold Ladar said it is unlikely they will be convicted of any of the felony charges.

Petrelis and Pasquarelli deny the charges, stating that, while some calls were made, they never threatened anyone, spoke to children, or placed bomb threats. Indeed, there is no evidence or declarations supporting the most serious felony charges. For example, the SF Chronicle has alleged their building was evacuated due to a bomb threat placed by Petrelis, but to date they have not been able to produce a police report about the incident. Initial media reports also stated that the pair had obtained unpublished phone numbers of government and health officials, however activists are quick to point out that all the numbers are readily available to the public via 411, phone number directories and the internet.

One of the most alarming allegations -- that children of health officials were targeted -- is also untrue and unsubstantiated. This isn't the first time the activists have been falsely accused of this behavior. Last year, local gay newspaper Frontiers ran an article accusing Pasquarelli and Petrelis of harassing the child of DPH official Willi MacFarland. The paper was forced to write a retraction denying the entire incident when the allegation was found to be untrue.

"It's the typical scenario of demonization and exaggeration by AIDS Inc.," stated Pasquarelli from jail. "These anti-gay accusations are not true, and we look forward to proving that in court."

=====

ACT UP San Francisco
1884 Market Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 http://www.actupsf.com


----------

Letters To The Editor
SF Frontiers 09/21/00

To the Editor:
Let me see if I correctly understand Alex MacDonald's latest chapter in the AIDS industry epic of anti ACT UP SF character assassinations. In addition to being depicted as a racist, woman-hating, violent, psychopathic, HIV-spreading holocaust denier I am now "strongly suspected of making what appear to be threatening telephone calls" to an eight-year-old little girl? (Men, Women and Even Children: ACT UP/San Francisco Accused of Making Threats," August 24)

Mary, please! I have not spoken to Department of Health Epidemiologist Willi McFarland or any member of his family via telephone - ever. Of course, had MacDonald bothered to call me to ask what I had to say about such a ridiculous rumor he would have found that out.

As always, rather than examine the important issue at hand, , SF Frontiers - through sorry AIDS apologists like MacDonald, Mirkin and Kingston - continually casts those who question the government line on HIV sensationalistic stories that can be taken seriously by only the most feeble minded.

How about reporting the news objectively without the snide slant and constant dissident bashing? Perhaps if your journalists spent less time spreading silly lies and more of it asking the hard questions, our community would understand that it is impossible for HIV rates to surge to "Sub-Saharan African levels" while rates of other sexually transmitted diseases in San Francisco's simultaneously plummet to an all-time low.

David Pasquarelli
ACT UP/San Francisco

----------

Correction
SF Frontiers 09/21/00

A look at the Department of Health's "San Francisco Monthly STD Report" does not bear out Mr. Pasquarelli's contention. In addition, despite his personal denial of the phone call, Department of Public Health officials still believe that members of ACT UP/San Francisco were responsible for the harassment of Willi McFarland's family. Regarding that story, however, the source was incorrect in saying that the word murderer has been used during the call, which disturbed McFarland's eight year-old daughter. McFarland was out of town at the time the story was written and wrote to us upon his return.
- Editor

----------

Letters To The Editor
SF Frontiers 09/21/00

Dear Editor,

I can confirm Mr. Loyce's observation in the August 24 edition of SF Frontiers that phone calls were made to my home upset my family, including my daughter, who had in fact answered the phone. Your detail regarding an alleged conversation between my daughter and a caller accusing me of being a murderer, to my knowledge did not take place. To protect my family's privacy and domestic peace I would ask that SF Frontiers consider this topic closed.

Sincerely,
Willi McFarland, M.D., Ph.D.,
Director, HIV Seroepidemiology Unit
Department of Public Health

---------

Men, Women and Even Children
ACT UP/San Francisco Accused of Threats

Alex MacDonald
SF Frontiers 08/24/00

For the first time, ever, San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) officials have taken legal action against ACT UP/San Francisco. After an Aug. 9 hearing at City Hall, Tate Swindell and David Pasquarelli, both members of this reneged group that denies HIV causes AIDS, were arrested and charged with assault. They were apprehended after pelting DPH director Dr. Mitchell Katz with paper wads and silly string during his testimony to a committee of the Board of Supervisors. Both Swindell and Pasquarelli already face similar charges arising from their disruption of a Project Inform forum on April 17, as do other members of ACT UP/San Francisco. And while silly string attacks may seem a lame excuse for arrest, the alleged activities of other members of the group have a more menacing air.

According to Jimmy Loyce, the deputy director of the San Francisco DPH, Pasquarelli and gadfly activist Michael Petrelis - who is often associated with the group's activities - are strongly suspected of making what appear to be threatening telephone calls to DPH epidemiologist Dr. Willie McFarland.

McFarland was at the center of a recent tempest involving reported increases in HIV-infection rates released prior to a vote on the Ryan White CARE Act in Washington, D.C. Loyce, citing McFarland's statement in support of a temporary restraining order, said that both Petrelis and Pasquarelli have called the epidemiologist at home and work. "These telephone calls have often taken on a hostile tone, and other members of his family, at home, have received these calls, including his eight-year-old daughter," said Loyce. "She is fearful of these guys... [and] her comment is, are they coming after her?"

Another source backed Loyce's comments, adding that McFarland has received late-night calls accusing him of murder. McFarland's daughter answered one such call and was allegedly told, "Your father is a murderer, and we are going to get him." Katz, however, did not report this incident to the supervisors.

The renegade group's intervention at the Aug. 9 supervisors' hearing gave graphic confirmation of testimony by Jeff Sheehy, public affairs director for UCSF's AIDS Research Institute, who said, "I have not been to a public meeting on HIV/AIDS that has not been disrupted in the last three years. It's frightening people away."

Katz testified earlier that members of the group have screamed, "murderer" at him when they have seen him on the street. He said they even followed him around a Safeway store when he was shopping, accusing him of causing the deaths of hundreds of gay men. Katz is also gay. During public comment before the supervisors, Pasquarelli, Swindell and ACT UP/San Francisco member Gilbert Criswell continued singling out gay men for verbal abuse, directing insulting comments to Katz and openly gay supervisors Mark Leno and Tom Ammiano.

Katz' decision to bring assault charges has not only improved morale, but also stiffened the resolve of the health commissioners. At the Aug. 15 Health Commission meeting, President Roma Guy interrupted Katz during his presentation of the director's report to warn Pasquarelli that hissing is a disruption and that he would be asked to leave if he did it again. When Pasquarelli held up a sign calling for Katz' removal, Guy warned him that signs are also a disruption.

www.actupsf.com
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