ACT UP New York’s Ongoing Struggle : Harassment Allegations, Legal Battles, and Internal Reforms

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ACT UP New York harassment allegations and legal battles

In the summer of 2021, ACT UP New York, a renowned activist organization dedicated to fighting for the rights and well-being of those affected by HIV/AIDS, found itself embroiled in a tumultuous series of events. Two harassment allegations against one of its members, Carlos Aitcheson-Valentin, marked the beginning of a saga that has gripped the organization for the past few years. As ACT UP New York grapples with accusations, legal battles, and internal reforms, this article explores the key events and developments in this ongoing struggle.

Initial Harassment Allegations

In August 2021, ACT UP New York received two formal complaints of harassment against Carlos Aitcheson-Valentin. In response to these serious allegations, the organization swiftly took action, asking Aitcheson-Valentin to refrain from attending meetings and protests while an internal Harassment Grievance Team conducted a thorough investigation. The aim was to ensure the safety and well-being of its members while addressing the allegations in a fair and just manner.

Expulsion and Legal Appeal

Following the completion of the investigation in September 2021, ACT UP New York made the difficult decision to expel Carlos Aitcheson-Valentin from its ranks. This decision was not made lightly and was based on the findings of the Harassment Grievance Team. Aitcheson-Valentin, however, was not prepared to accept this outcome. In April 2023, he filed an appeal challenging his expulsion, alleging that he had been denied due process and that ACT UP New York had violated state law and its own policies.

Article 78 Action

In January 2023, Aitcheson-Valentin escalated the matter by filing an Article 78 action in New York State court. This legal move sought to challenge his expulsion and questioned the organization’s adherence to its internal policies and procedures. The lawsuit signaled a significant escalation in the conflict and added a layer of complexity to an already challenging situation.

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Additional Allegations and Member Turnout

The situation took an even more unsettling turn during a meeting on January 15, 2024, when a second Harassment Grievance Team presented more serious allegations against Aitcheson-Valentin. These included a physical altercation that occurred on World AIDS Day in 2022 and a disturbing image shared on his Facebook account. The revelation of these additional allegations prompted a significant turnout of ACT UP New York members, with 75 out of 91 attendees voting to expel Aitcheson-Valentin.

Community Mediation and Legal Representation

In an attempt to address the conflicts related to the harassment allegations, ACT UP New York had previously held a community mediation session in 2020. Members expressed concerns not only about the allegations but also about Aitcheson-Valentin’s well-being, underlining the organization’s commitment to both justice and compassion. Furthermore, in late 2023, ACT UP New York secured pro bono legal representation from Remy Green to defend itself against the lawsuit, indicating its determination to protect its reputation and integrity.

Amendments and Support

In early 2024, ACT UP New York held a pivotal meeting with nearly 175 members in attendance. During this gathering, the organization made amendments to its bylaws and garnered support for the Harassment Grievance Team’s report. Members recognized the gravity of the situation and expressed concern that the lawsuit posed a potential threat to the group’s continued existence.

Motion to Dismiss

On January 16, 2024, ACT UP New York took a decisive step by filing a motion in the lawsuit, asking the court to dismiss the case. The organization argued that Aitcheson-Valentin no longer had standing to pursue internal policies and procedures, as he had resigned from the group in July 2020. Additionally, the motion pointed out that concerns about quorum violations had been addressed through the recent amendments made on January 8, further strengthening the organization’s position.

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Conclusion

The ongoing saga within ACT UP New York serves as a complex and challenging case study of how activist organizations navigate internal conflicts, allegations, and legal battles. As the organization continues to grapple with these issues, it remains steadfast in its mission to fight for the rights and well-being of those affected by HIV/AIDS. The resolution of this situation will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the future of the organization and its commitment to social justice and advocacy

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