Groups march Downtown against AIDS, coal mining

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More than 100 HIV/AIDS activists and protesters from New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh marched to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this afternoon, calling for universal access to medication.

The march was modeled after a funeral, symbolizing the deaths organizers said will be caused if more funding is not found to fight HIV and AIDS worldwide. Bearing a black cardboard coffin and dressed in black, the protesters carried black and white signs shaped like tombstones.

"I've been an AIDS nurse for about 13 years," said Mary Adams, of Rochester, N.Y., who brought her two young daughters to the march.

"I've seen people go literally from hospices, back to work," she said of the efficacy of retroviral drugs. "And at the same time, people around the world have access to no medicines, not even antibiotics."

"We have families in other countries, and they have AIDS, and they can't even get medication," said Robert Gamboa, of New York City. "Hello? Where is the money at? Where is the $50 billion?" he said, a reference to President Barack Obama's promise to put $50 billion toward fighting AIDS worldwide.

The protesters marched from Liberty Avenue and Grant Street and under the Convention Center to reach the Allegheny River, where they paused for speeches, before marching back. Protesters from New York and Philadelphia rode for hours on buses to reach the march, which began at 2 p.m.

The convention center is the site of this week's G-20 Summit of the world's largest economies.

It's very important," said the Rev. Jeffrey Jordan, who said his bus left Philadelphia at 7 a.m. "I am HIV positive, and I have my bills. With the help of God and my medicine, I have a sustained life," he said, "and I feel like the same privileges I have, people all over the world should have."

Almost as soon as the protest was over, marchers began to board buses to leave town.

Earlier today, about 25 protesters allied with the Three Rivers Climate Convergence marched from the Art Institute to the Federal Courthouse, calling for cleaner energy and speaking out against coal power.

"Leave the carbon in the ground, leave the coal in the ground" said event organizer Lisa Fithian, of Austin, Texas. "The forces of greed and destruction want to rape the earth."

The protesters marched down the Boulevard of the Allies to PPG Plaza, where they were asked to leave - the courtyard is private property - by a line of 19 police officers.

Followed by two unmarked police vans, they continued to Liberty Avenue, stopping at 2 PNC Plaza to sing, drum and chant.

Delyla Wilson, of Montana, said she was drawn to the protest because of the adverse health effects of coal.

"As the health of the community is crumbling, no one is willing to pay for the health care we need," she said.

Grady Minnis rode his bicycle from Asheville, N.C., to protest at the G-20 to raise awareness about mountaintop removal caused by coal mining, he said. He said he had passed out fliers and talked to people during the two-week bike ride, explaining that mountaintop removal has deeply affected his home town.

Bearing a white banner smeared with coal to read, "Clean coal is a lie," the protesters left pieces of coal on the ground wherever they stopped.


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