With both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders courting all aspects of the LGBT vote, especially in advance of the New York State primary last month, both Clinton and Sanders agreed to meet with HIV activists this month in Indianapolis. Now, Sanders has cancelled and failed to reschedule or communicate with activist groups he had agreed to meet with. The Washington Blade looks at the strange cancellation and cessation of communications. Here are highlights:
Bernie Sanders has cancelled a meeting with HIV advocates his campaign affirmed days before the crucial New York Democratic primary he would attend, according to the activists who sought to arrange the meeting. The 30-minute meeting between Sanders and HIV advocates was set for May 13 in Indianapolis.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton also agreed to meet the activists, who say they’re are still on track to meet with her Thursday for one hour in New York City.
Hilary McQuie, director of U.S. policy and grassroots mobilization for the HIV/AIDS group Health GAP, told the Blade the Sanders campaign cancelled the meeting without explanation. “He did cancel — no reason given and they have not rescheduled,” McQuie said. “We feel a bit burned by the bern, and hope they will answer our emails now.”
Peter Staley, a New York-based gay rights and HIV advocate, told the Blade HIV advocates before the unexpected cancellation were in daily contact with the Sanders campaign. “They sent a ‘need to reschedule’ email last Sunday (for our Tuesday meeting), and then bizarrely stopped communications completely after that,” Staley said.
“We’ve been emailing and calling every day since then, including warning them days ago about our intent to go public.” According to a statement announcing the cancellation from the Brooklyn-based HIV and homeless advocacy group Housing Works, attendees were informed on April 30 the Sanders meeting was cancelled, which was two days after many of them purchased expensive, last-minute plane ticket to attend the event.
Although the Sanders campaign promised to “reschedule” as soon as possible, it has yet to propose a new date, time or city, the statement says. The Sanders campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment late Sunday to confirm the meeting with HIV advocates was cancelled or to explain why the event would be nixed.
Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, said in the statement he’s among Sanders’ supporters, but the candidate’s decision to cancel the meeting is “incredibly disappointing.” “I have been a supporter of Bernie Sanders, and was proud to vote for him in the New York primary,” King said.
“It is disheartening to see the ‘revolutionary’ candidate who claims to value grassroots organizing and visionary politics not make time in his schedule to meet with us. He is supposed to be the guy who walks the walk, but all we’ve heard the past six weeks is talk—and fairly tepid, reactive talk at that.”
Ramon Gardenhire, vice president of policy and advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said Sanders should remain true to his word to meet HIV advocates.