Activists take vaccine demands, and a mountain of fake bones, to the home of Biden’s chief of staff.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

A small band of longtime AIDS activists, fed up with what they regard as President Biden’s failure to scale up coronavirus vaccine manufacturing for global use, deposited a fake mountain of bones outside the home of Ron Klain, his chief of staff, on Wednesday to represent the lives they say have been lost to the president’s inaction.

The activists, some of them veterans of much larger protests that played out at the National Institutes of Health more than 30 years ago, had already made similar demands in private phone calls with administration officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a target of early AIDS protests that played out at the National Institutes of Health more than 30 years ago who later became the activists’ ally.

But the calls got them nowhere, they said. So they decided to try more old-fashioned, in-your-face tactics. The mountain of bones, they said, was made by a set designer in New York. They planted it in front of Mr. Klain’s next-door neighbor’s driveway to avoid running afoul of the Secret Service agents guarding Mr. Klain’s house. The agents eventually asked them politely to leave.

“Nobody wants to be here in front of Ron Klain’s house, protesting a president that most of us all voted for,” said Gregg Gonsalves, a Yale University epidemiologist whose activism on behalf of people with AIDS led to a career in academia and a 2018 MacArthur “genius” grant. “But we’ve tried everything else.”

He defended the decision to show up at the private home of an unelected administration official.

“What is it — four million deaths, six million deaths, 10 million deaths — where we can show up on somebody’s lawn and hold them accountable?” Dr. Gonsalves said. More than 4.7 million people are known to have died worldwide from Covid-19, but analyses of excess mortalities around the world suggests that the actual number is far higher.

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