Sunday, March 11, 2018

SHAME ON SACKLER ACTION! Fund Harm Reduction Now! #ShameonSackler #ShameonPharma #PharmaGreedKills

Nan Goldin and this writer at the Met. Art News. 

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

I have always loved Nan Goldin.  Her photos evoked another world in my New York City.  She seemed attuned to the sensibilities of the East Village underground, in all its lusty ambition and pain.  Like many, I was horrified to hear about her experience with the opioid crisis, becoming dependent on OxyContin like millions of other Americans. When she came out of it, she looked around and asked who was responsible? Who made these medications that get people hooked so quickly?  What was their profit motive?  Looking around she set her sites on Purdue Pharma, the family company of the Sackler family that produces OxyContin.
I learned that the Sackler family, whose name I knew from museums and galleries, were responsible for the epidemic. This family formulated, marketed, and distributed OxyContin. I decided to make the private public by calling them to task,” explained Nan, forming PAIN Sackler.
Saturday, I joined activists with PAIN Sackler, to attempt to embarrass the family for not doing more to address the ever escalating opioid crisis their medication has helps fuel.

A group of us met at the 85 and 5th Ave to bring our message to the Met, at the Sackler wing, funded by the Sackler family.  I love the Met. Its my favorite museum in the city.  But it seems to have lost its way, taking money from Koch brothers, charging admission, etc.

The plan of the action was simple.  We’d walk to the Temple of Dendur, Sackler Wing, Met Museum and cause a commotion. 

Our objectives were simple, as the PAIN Sackler organizers wrote:

--Shame the Sackler family by staging a direct action in the fountain of Sackler Egyptian Wing of the museum
--Educate museumgoers

--We’ll have two banners that four of us will place at predetermined parts of the temple area.
--Banner text will read "SHAME ON SACKLER" and "FUND REHAB"
--We will throw empty pill bottles with a custom-made Oxycontin label into the Temple’s fountain.
--We will distribute fake Museum leaflets with facts on the opioid epidemics and the Sackler family involvement.
--There will be chanting: “Shame on Sackler”
--Some of us will perform a die-in, by lying on the ground and play dead.
-- There will be no damage to the artifacts or the building (though the museum does allow visitors to toss coins in the fountain).

Arriving at the Temple, I saw activists from all over New York, members of VOCAL, Rise and Resist, ACT UP, Treatment Action Group, etc… passing out flyers.

With a signal, Nan Goldin started throwing pill bottles with the words Purdue Pharmaceuticals into the water outside the temple.

We screamed “Shame on Sackler” as we threw bottles and unfurled the 2 banners. The chanting   increased in volume.

“SHAME ON SACKLER” chant continued.  

Nan stood in front of the temple and declared: “150 people are dead today from opioids, ten this hour.  Sackler family, fund treatment, fund harm reduction.   We are artists.   We are activists. We are users. We need treatment today.  The Sacklers lie. People die.”

Gradually, we all lay down for a die in as the security moved in to stop the action.
“Sacklers lie, people die!” we chanted.  My daughter joined us for the die in.  Looking around I saw my friends from the harm reduction movement, people who have fought for the poor to get effective, compassionate treatment, regardless of where they come from or look like.  With white people hooked receiving treatment and persons of color jail time, the opioid crisis has exposed a fissure within our culture.   Yet, everyone needs care.  Laying on the ground, I thought about how proud I was of everyone there fighting the stigma of addiction.  There is nothing better than doing a die in at the Met with some friends, many artists, others drug users, activists, comrades and even family members. The whole time I was there, I thinking of my mom, a medieval art historian, who'd taken me to the Met so many times. Telling her about the action, she agreed, the Sackler family needs to fund treatment and harm reduction. 

Outside, Nan stood on the steps of the museum, holding one of the pill bottles bearing the Sackler family name up in the air.  And told her story.   People are dying.  We need treatment.  We need harm reduction.  Fund harm reduction programs, Goldin declared.  Fund harm reduction. 

We'll be back we told a hoard of photographers, snapping shots of the immanent photographer, whose photos hang in galleries around the world. 


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