President Clinton's Event Disrupted by Anti-Circumcision Activists
Surely, President Clinton was a little freaked out last night when in the middle of his event -- a Clinton Foundation Millennium Network talk in New York featuring the former president, Chelsea Clinton, and actor Ed Norton -- a whistle blew and a group of men stood up, held hands, and chanted, "Stop exploiting Africans; circumcision does not stop AIDS!"
The protesters were self-described "intactivists" -- those who believe that circumcision is actually a mutilation of the genitals.
Although circumcision is routinely performed on infants in the United States, it is not in other developed countries. Germans even moved to outlaw the practice last year (though Jews stopped the law on religious grounds), and it is banned in some Australian hospitals. Circumcision became widely popular as a means to prevent males from masturbating. Today's medical establishment generally supports circumcision, arguing that it has preventive effects for penile cancer and other diseases, though some studies say it leads to erectile dysfunction and other problems.
Last night's protest was led by a group called Intaction and promoted by "The Barefoot Intactivist" -- a University of Florida graduate who gives his name as Kevin and who runs barefoot to promote awareness of the anti-circumcision cause.
Protesters targeted Clinton because he has been a huge supporter of programs that seek to circumcise hundreds of thousands of African men in an attempt to slow the spread of AIDS.
Protesters say this is misguided -- that the research is flawed -- and that Africans are being used as pawns in science experiments.
Anthony Losquadro, executive director of Intaction, said that he and seven other activists had been planning the protest for a month. They each bought $100 tickets to the event, and had actually intended to put on white suits with bloodstains on the crotches before standing up, but the rows were packed too closely together to maneuver without sending the audience into a panic.
Losquadro said it was about midway through the program, when Norton was interviewing the Clintons about their foundation's initiatives, that his group interrupted. Clinton coolly said, "OK, you guys had your chance to speak, now its my turn" and "attempted engage us in a little bit of a dialogue. He mentioned the three studies in African countries that show circumcision results in a 60 percent reduction in the transmission of AIDS."