Bill Clinton Justice Usa city Midtown Election social War UPS Citizens politician Bill Clinton Justice Usa city Midtown

Interrupting politicians is an essential part of queer activism history

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For the GAY TIMES’ justice column, “Let’s Create Some Good In The World”: learn about activists past and present using this method called “birdogging.”  WORDS BY ELIEL CRUZ In 1992, ACT UP NY activist Bob Rafsky interrupted then-Presidential candidate Bill Clinton live on cable news at a campaign event in Midtown.  “We’re not dying of AIDS as much as we are dying of 11 years of government neglect,” Rafsky shouts.

A visibly angry Clinton scolds him for being discourteous in a heated exchange. Two days later, the Clinton campaign met with ACT UP and agreed “to make a major AIDS policy speech, to have people with HIV speak to the Democratic Convention, and to sign onto the UAA’s (United for AIDS Action) five-point plan.”  This tactic is known as “birddogging”: when a private citizen or activist employs “dogged” methods to disrupt electeds, politicians, or public figures at events, at their homes, or anywhere they might see them in the flesh. Birddogging creates a moment of friction between an activist and a politician, whether it’s Rafsky, movement icon Jennicet Gutierrez, or my friends, the organizers Jason Rosenburg and LaLa Zanell.

With the influx of birddogging surrounding the climate crisis, the war on Gaza, or other US military spending, there is and always has been a hot debate that follows about whether birddogging is “appropriate” or wrong on principle.

Recently, NY mag’s Jonathan Chait called it “illiberal and dangerous.”  As an outsider or someone not connected to social justice movement work, birddogging might seem rude, tactless, or improper, but this kind of direct action is often meticulously planned weeks in advance, with clear goals in mind, and shouldn’t be written off simply because it goes against perceived social norms. Why do people think this highly effective and storied method of protest is “dangerous” or disrespectful? Disruption is essential to most forms of protest in order to stop or pause the status quo, and has played an integral part of

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