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Anti-AIDS Protest Closes Golden Gate Bridge, Commuters Angered

January 31, 1989 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ About 80 demonstrators demanding more commitment to stopping AIDS closed the Golden Gate Bridge during Tuesday’s morning rush hour, stalling thousands of commuters in a traffic jam.

The fog-shrouded bridge was closed for 46 minutes while Highway Patrol officers arrested 26 protesters affiliated with a group called ″Stop AIDS Now Or Else.″ The demonstrators were cited on charges of trespassing and creating a public nuisance and then released, officials said.

A spokeswoman for the group said they chose the bridge for the protest because it would be ″the most disruptive to people.″

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″AIDS is disrupting our lives and until people’s lives are disrupted, they don’t pay attention,″ said Darla Rucker, spokeswoman for the group of AIDS victims and friends of AIDS patients.

″We don’t have the time to wait. My friends are dying all around me.″

The demonstrators closed all the traffic lanes by spreading a banner that read: ″AIDS Genocide; Silence Death; Fight Back,″ according to Highway Patrol officers, who called for police vans to cart off those arrested.

Some motorists stuck along U.S. 101 north and south of the bridge expressed anger at the demonstration and traffic tie-up.

Ruth Wheeler, of Larkspur, said she veered off the highway in Marin County, parked at a Safeway store and queued up with some 20 people to use five public telephones.

″People at Safeway were very upset. They said it was going to defeat their (the protesters’) cause,″ said Wheeler, who finally arrived at her destination about 9:30 a.m. ″The people said, ’Hey, if they think I’m going to be for them, doing something like this, forget it.‴

One motorist whose trip into San Francisco usually takes a half-hour finally parked his car and took a ferry across the bay. Although he beat most of the traffic, he said it took him two hours to reach his office.

Leaflets that the protesters distributed to motorists criticized the government’s handling of the AIDS crisis, quoted several AIDS victims and urged motorists to ″Get out of your car and join us.″

″Are you sick and tired of being stuck on this bridge? So are we 3/8″ the leaflet said. ″Are you wondering how long it will be? So are we 3/8 Are you wondering ‘Why me?’ So are we 3/8″

A caller to The Associated Press bureau in San Francisco said the group was protesting ″the inactivity of the government the last eight years and telling George Bush we’re not going to remain inactive.″

″We’re going to continue to put pressure on Washington to do more for people with AIDS,″ the caller said, refusing to identify himself.