International AIDS Society

Security and Principles of Conference Participation

Providing a safe, secure environment for all delegates and the general public is one of the highest priorities for conference organizers.

The conference organizers are working with a professional security consulting firm, as well as local, state and national police and security services to implement a security programme that will mitigate potential risk with the intention of keeping all participants safe throughout the conference.

1. Principles and Values Inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

The conference endorses freedom of expression as an essential principle in the response to HIV and in promoting full participation in our conferences. The combined efforts of all stakeholders in the public and private sectors and civil society are required to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic. Activism and advocacy contribute to advancing commitment, policy and practice aimed at ending the epidemic.

The right to participate at an IAS-supported conference is fundamental to ensuring open dialogue between all stakeholders. The IAS encourages debate and dialogue as key elements of participation, among all conference participants including delegates, sponsors, speakers and presenters, researchers and scientists, community representatives, leaders and the media.

Peaceful protest has always been and continues to be a key element of participation at the conferences. The IAS opposes the destruction of property or the use or threat of physical force by any individual or group of individuals during the conferences. The IAS opposes the disruption of conference sessions or satellite meetings that results in the inability for dialogue and debate to take place. Destructive or violent actions will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of District of Columbia (Washington) area and the United States of America. Further, security personnel may escort participants from the venue or revoke their access to the remainder of the conference.

General Principles
  • Responsibility: All participants attending a conference are subject to the laws applicable in the country of the location. By attending a conference, participants also agree to adhere to these Principles and Values of Conference Participation.
  • Support: The conference will provide support and space for meaningful participation including community involvement to enable a broad spectrum of viewpoints.
  • Peaceful protest is a form of participation supported at the conference. Action that involves the use or threat of physical force or the destruction of property, may contravene the laws of the country of location.
  • Prior Resolution: These Principles are intended to guide the conference organizers response to actual disruptions that prevent participation. The IAS encourages dialogue among and with participants prior to action that may result in disruption of participation. Advice and assistance in facilitating dialogue and resolution and in preventing or de-escalating a disruption will be available.
  • Accreditation: The conference reserves the right to withdraw the name badge, and therefore deny access, to participants who do not adhere to these Principles. Additional information and the full statement will be available at the on-site registration counter.
Procedures involving Disruptions within Sessions and Satellite Meetings, the Exhibition Hall and Conference Centre
  1. Session Slide: In session halls, a slide will be available which reads “Please respect the right of the speaker to be heard and of other participants to hear the speaker.” In the event of verbal disruption, the Chair of the session may signal the audio visual technician to display the slide. The slide may remain displayed until the disruption has died down. If there are further disruptions, the slide may be displayed again.
  2. Engagement Representative: It is recommended that all exhibitors designate a representative for engaging in dialogue with peaceful protestors prior to any situation arising.
  3. Application of the Law: The conference participants are subject to the laws applicable in the host country. Physical force or threats of physical force or destruction of property by conference participants will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the country. In addition, the response may include the escorting of participants from the conference venue.
  4. Withdrawal of Accreditation: In the event of disruption or action that does not respect these Principles, the conference may withdraw a participant’s accreditation and name badge and suspend or cancel the participant’s access to the conference.
  5. Accreditation Appeal: If a conference participant feels that he or she has been wronged in the withdrawal of his or her accreditation, the participant will have 24 hours to appeal to the conference organizers for reinstatement of the accreditation. Appeals will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  6. Public statement: In the event that property is destroyed or physical force is used or threatened by a participant, the conference organizers may issue a statement concerning the action within the framework of the Principles and Values of Conference Participation.
Other Procedures and Measures for Supporting Participation

The conference will offer or provide other measures to support or facilitate meaningful participation.

Sessions Participation: The conference programme will include features in conference sessions and activities to provide opportunities for various viewpoints to be expressed and for dissenting voices to be heard, as key elements of the conference organizers’ commitment to enhanced participation and dialogue.

Prior Dialogue and Consultation: The IAS encourages dialogue among and with participants prior to the conference and prior to any action that is contemplated and that might result in disruption of participation. The IAS will consult with activist and advocacy organizations, sponsors and local partner, and other participants on policies and measures to increase and facilitate participation.

Networking and Meeting Space: AIDS 2012 will provide space in the conference venue to facilitate and support dialogue, discussion, and networking. These spaces include a meeting room, a lounge for people living with HIV (Positive Lounge), and informal networking areas or zones, etc.

Community Activist Liaison: The conferences will provide support for dialogue and participation through a team of Community Activist Liaison Facilitators who will provide advice and assistance in advance of, and during the conference. This team will consult with activist organizations and individuals, as well as community co-organizers and programme committee members, to identify those conference sessions that are most likely to generate or attract peaceful protest and dissent.

Activist Support Space: The International AIDS Conference will provide local space as a planning, coordinating and networking space for meaningful participation of community activist and advocacy participants and their organizations.

Security Advisory Committee: The International AIDS Conference will also have a Security Advisory Committee which will serve as a forum for conference sponsors, exhibitors, co-organizers and activists to share information and views and provide advice on the conference security policy and related matters, in advance of the conference.

2. Security Outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center

This is information we received from the U.S. authorities to avoid any misunderstandings.

The United States Constitution guarantees the First Amendment right for all citizens and the Law Enforcement authorities work very hard to facilitate peaceful protest in the Washington area.

The District of Columbia has the following public policy:


705.1 It is the declared public policy of the District of Columbia that persons and groups have a right to organize and participate in peaceful First Amendment assemblies on the streets, sidewalks, and other public ways, and in the parks of the District of Columbia, and to engage in First Amendment assembly near the object of their protest so they may be seen and heard, subject to reasonable restrictions designed to protect public safety, persons, and property, and to accommodate the interest of persons not participating in the assemblies to use the streets, sidewalks, and other public ways to travel to their intended destinations, and use the parks for recreational purposes.

705.2 A "First Amendment assembly" means a demonstration, rally, parade, march, vigil, picket line, or other similar gathering conducted for the purpose of persons expressing their political, social, religious, or other views.

705.3 The Metropolitan Police Department may impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on First Amendment assemblies held on District streets, sidewalks, or other public ways, or in District parks.

There are many law enforcement authorities in the Washington area including Metro Police, US Park Police, US Capitol Police, Uniformed Secret Service, Defense Protective Services, and the FBI, who may have different jurisdictions but who all facilitate a very large number of peaceful protests and marches on a daily basis.

However, a conviction in the United States for protest activities can have serious consequences for non-citizens, including deportation or exclusion the next time the person wants to enter the United States.

So as you understand, it is strongly recommended that non-citizens should be extremely cautious when exercising their first amendment rights and be very aware of the laws and offences that can be enforced especially in the Capitol area.

Some of the offenses (fines and jail terms) that relate to Protest activities include the following:

Incommoding. This is blocking vehicle or pedestrian traffic on the streets, sidewalks, and other walkways.

Failure to obey a Police Officer. Often called "failure to disperse," this charge is possible when the police decide to close a street or clear a path and you refuse to move.

Unlawful entry on property (trespassing). Remaining on private property after being told to leave is punishable by a fine up to $100 and/or up to 6 months in jail.

Resisting or interfering with a police officer is a violation of the same law as assault on a police officer (see below). You may not stand in the path of an officer (especially if they are trying to make an arrest) or pull away from them or help another person to pull away from an officer trying to make an arrest.

Assault on a Police Officer. Any unwanted touching of a police officer is an assault. Touching anything they are holding (nightstick, bullhorn, etc.) is the same as touching the officer. Same for throwing anything at an officer, even if you only accidentally hit them. This is a serious offense, a felony, with a possible $5,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison.

Destruction of property. Less than $250 in damage is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail. More than $250 in damage is a felony, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison. DC Code § 22-403. Even if there is no "destruction," there is a separate crime of defacing public or private property.

Destruction of federal property is a serious crime. If you do anything less than $1,000 in damage it is punishable by a fine and/or up to 1 year in prison; more serious damage can lead to up to 10 years in prison.

Assault on a foreign official
(maximum 3 years for simple assault and up to 10 years if a weapon is used; 18 U.S.C. § 112(a)) and intimidation or harassment of a foreign official (up to 6 months in jail; 18 U.S.C. § 112(b)) protect the person, accommodation, and car of any "official guest."

Source: “Exercising Your Rights Of Political Protest In Washington, DC” National Lawyers Guild