On September 14, 1989, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) 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.
“You can see Michelangelo Signorile, Bill Bahlman (holding video camera), and Vincent Gagliostro in the crowd. Seen first in the perp line is Scott Robbe, followed by , Robert Hilferty (RIP). Then you’ll see the late and great Lee Arsenault (with mustache), and Gregg Bordowitz is shown in front of Lee. Unfortunately, the clip ends before we see the last two of our seven-man team: James McGrath and Richard Elovitch. September 14, 1989 — probably the most thrilling day of my life.” – Peter Staley