Federal Building

The Federal Building was targeted several times by ACT UP LA, as it represented to them a physical embodiment of a complacent government, holding inside of it the LA office of the Food and Drug Administration. Any demonstrations here also improved visibility for the organization, as it was located at one of Los Angeles’s busiest intersections: Wilshire Blvd. and Veteran Ave.

ACT UP LA was joined by ACT UP San Diego, ACT UP Long Beach, womens and abortion rights groups, Latino groups, and many others to create a band of over 400 activists who then staged a sit in outside of the federal building on October 6, 1989. They were successful in preventing 1,500 employees from entering as well as covering their entryway with the phrase “Don’t forget me” along with the names of many who had already died of AIDS. 80 of the activists were arrested for trespassing.

An earlier ACT UP LA group of about 400 marched through Westwood neighborhoods and UCLA's campus in March of 1988, believing that “the only way to get action is to make noise”. They were to end up in front of the Federal building, protesting the passivity and silence the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) was presenting in the face of the most deadly plague in modern times. Their chants included “FDA save the day- get off your ass and pave the way” as well as striking statistics on signs reading “29,000 dead, how many more?”. ACT UP protestors performed “die-ins” along the route, a tactic seen later on in much higher numbers in which the activists would lie down, have their bodies outlined in chalk, and write the name of a victim to AIDS within the outline. These symbolic deaths and the march itself were critical aspects of ACT UP LA’s early build of momentum, with a heavy media presence doing wonders for dissemination of information.


Roth, Benita. The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s. Cambridge University Press, 2017.