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Today in Gay History – September 14, 1989: ACT UP Protests the NYSE, Crashes Trading Floor

On September 14, 1989, ACT UP led a noon protest of 350 people in front of the New York Stock Exchange, targeting Burroughs Wellcome and other companies that it felt were profiteering from the epidemic by their high pricing of the AIDS drug AZT, which was unaffordable to most people living with HIV. (the demonstration was planned to coincide with those held in San Francisco and London that day).

Separate from the noon rally, ACT UP members Peter Staley, Lee Arsensault, Greg Bordowitz, Scott Robbe, James McGrath, and two other members who served as photographers infiltrated the Stock Exchange that morning. Chaining themselves to the VIP balcony, they dropped fake $100 bills onto the trading floor and disrupted the opening bell for the first time in history. Their miniature foghorns drown out the opening bell, as they unfurled  a banner above the trading floor demanding “SELL WELLCOME” . Their photographs were given to the Associated Press and the story went national.

As a result of these demonstrations, Burroughs Wellcome lowered the price of AZT by 20 percent four days later.

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, writer, blogger and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Advocate, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, Raw Story, and The Huffington Post

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