The CDC Words Trump "Banned" Were Projected Onto His Hotel & The Photos Are Powerful
After reports that the Trump Administration apparently banned several words at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last week, a group of LGBTQ activists decided to take their concerns all the way to the president — or, at least, to one of his eponymous properties. On Tuesday, members from Human Rights Campaign projected all seven reportedly-banned words, plus the declaration "We will not be erased," onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and the photos of the CDC words Trump reportedly banned send a strong message.
"Our message for the Trump-Pence Administration is this: you cannot erase us. We will meet attacks on our community with a resolve to be louder and more visible than ever before," David Stacy, HRC’s Director of Government Affairs, said on the organization's blog.
The reason for the demonstration was a Friday report, published by The Washington Post, which said officials at the CDC were given a list of seven terms that they should refrain from using in documents related to drafting next year's budget. Those terms were: "vulnerable," "entitlement," “diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based," and "science-based."
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the CDC's parent-organization, attempted to temper the ensuing public outrage, telling The New York Times through a spokesperson that, "'banned words' is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process."
Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the CDC, took to Twitter on Sunday to further dispute accusations of censorship. "I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC," she said. "We will continue to talk about all our important public health programs."
In a follow up tweet, she added, "As part of our commitment to provide for the common defense of the country against health threats, science is and will remain the foundation of our work." Fitzgerald is a Trump-appointee who was chosen to run the agency in July.
But members of HRC were not taking any chances on Tuesday, when they partnered with artist Robin Bell to project each reportedly banned word right onto the hotel's facade. In a statement, Stacy of HRC said that the organization wanted to draw attention to the impact which censorship could potentially have on public health:
It was not long ago that the government tried to ignore the reality of the HIV and AIDS crisis to the detriment of millions. This kind of erasure has potentially catastrophic consequences beyond the words used by the CDC — it could impact the very programs most vital to the health of transgender people, women, youth and others.
Additionally, the group also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the HHS for any and all records related to the "banned" words, beginning in November 2016.
The fate of the request is yet to be determined.
The project was not the first of its kind for Bell, who has projected protest images on to the Trump International Hotel before. Back in May, for example, Bell was the artist behind projections which said, "Emoluments Welcome" and "Pay Trump Bribes Here."
That display also featured the images of flags from countries where Trump has business ties.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Bell has been working with projections since 2001. Initially, they were for musical performances, but they have since become a medium for protest.
The nature of Bell's work is transient, and doesn't necessarily require a lot of airtime. Even when projections run for only a few minutes, it's often just enough time for passersby to share the work on social media, where demonstrations have the potential to be shared with millions.