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MARCH 12, 2001
7:22 PM
CONTACT:  R2K Legal Collective
Kris Hermes, R2K Legal Collective (215) 925-6791
Kate Sorensen, ACT UP Philadelphia (917) 514-5579
Lawrence Krasner, R2K Lawyer (215) 636-9500
RNC Protest Defendant and Accused 'Ringleader' Kate Sorensen Acquitted of Felony Charges
Sorensen, originally held for ten days on $1 million bail and charged with ten felonies and ten misdemeanors, was acquitted of nineteen of those charges and has claimed victory after seven months of prosecution
PHILADELPHIA - March 12 - Community leader and ACT UP member Kate Sorensen was acquitted today of felony charges stemming from her August 1 arrest at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Sorensen was arrested in the midst of protests focusing on the high rates of incarceration of youth, people of color, and the poor, the racist death penalty, and the denial of decent health care for prisoners.

Kate Sorensen
Activist Kate Sorensen reacts after being aquitted of charges stemming from protests at the 2000 Republican National Convention Monday, March 12, 2001, in Philadelphia. A jury found Sorensen innocent of riot, risking a catastrophe and conspiracy in the first felony trial stemming from the GOP convention. (AP Photo/Dan Loh)
Following a three-day jury trial, Sorensen was found not guilty of the felonies of which she was accused, including riot, risking a catastrophe, and conspiracy. She was found guilty of one misdemeanor, criminal mischief. “My family and I thank those who have supported me over the past months of uncertainty,” said Sorensen. “I’m ready to go back to what I’m supposed to be doing, which is being an AIDS activist.”

Sorensen was the first felony defendant to go to trial out of over 300 people facing charges related to the protests during the RNC. Singled out as a “ringleader” by law enforcement and held for ten days in prison, Sorensen was originally charged with ten felonies and ten misdemeanors.

“She was found guilty of a crime that was not supported by any of the evidence,” says Sorensen’s lawyer Lawrence Krasner “and the conviction will easily be thrown out on appeal.”

After being followed by the police for two hours on August 1, Sorensen was arrested while walking through Love Park talking on a cell phone. Evidence turned over by the prosecution showed that the FBI had been following Sorensen since April 2000. In the week before trial, the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections showed up at Sorensen’s house three times.

“The city was willing to hold Kate for ten days on $1 million bail and then put her in jail for over twenty years for damages that ended up amounting to a fender-bender. It’s time to move on,” says Danielle Redden of the R2K Legal Collective.

An AIDS activist since 1988 and a longtime proponent of nonviolent action, Sorensen has been in local and national campaigns for social change for more than twenty years. During Sorensen’s trial, ACT UP was receiving national attention and recognition for life-saving work on global access to essential medicines. Today, over 400 ACT UP members rallied at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C., to support the South African government as they are sued by over 35 pharmaceutical companies for the passage of a law to increase access to generic medication.

There are ten remaining RNC felony defendants awaiting trial and facing possibly years in jail. Trials will continue over the next few months. The District Attorney has singled out some of those defendants for especially aggressive prosecution. For the three defendants allegedly involved in an incident with Police Commissioner Timoney, most of the charges had been thrown out at a preliminary hearing. The prosecutor has put the case on hold by appealing that decision to a superior court. This appeal will likely delay the trial for over a year.


Kate Sorensen was born in Torrance, CA in 1962. Sorensen attended California University of the Arts, where she studied fine arts, printing and publishing. At sixteen, she got her first job in a print shop and worked in the printing industry for nearly 20 years. A West Philadelphia homeowner and artist, Sorensen currently works as a union organizer for 1199-C, the hospital and health care workers union.

As a teenager, Sorensen joined efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and was involved in other key feminist activist campaigns. In the eighties, as her friends began to die of HIV/AIDS, Kate Sorensen became involved in the earliest efforts to bring attention to the epidemic. In 1986, Sorensen joined ACT UP Los Angeles, an all-volunteer AIDS activist group. Her first AIDS protest was a successful attempt to secure beds for AIDS patients at LA County Hospital. Sorensen and other activists engaged in non-violent civil disobedience at the Los Angeles City Council. The county agreed to open an AIDS ward, one of the first in the nation.

Sorensen was a founding member of Queer Nation Los Angeles, a grassroots organization that drew attention to the impact of homophobia in the United States. Her work with Queer Nation included organizing a large demonstration at the 1991 Academy Awards to protest the negative depiction of gays and lesbians in cinema and to educate American society about gay and lesbian lives. At the historic 1993 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender March on Washington, Sorensen led an all-women’s march as a member of the National ACT UP Women’s Network.

In 1994, Sorensen moved to Philadelphia, where she became an active member of ACT UP Philadelphia, the nation’s largest grassroots AIDS activist organization. She has helped organize numerous successful campaigns to address the needs of women, low-income people and people of color, and other groups hard-hit by the epidemic. These campaigns include persuading the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry to increase and improve research on women with HIV; coordinating a public poster project utilizing the art and stories of homeless people living with HIV; and designing an internationally-distributed World AIDS Day information kit on the lack of AIDS drugs in poor nations. She has worked with recovering drug users to increase access to information about HIV prevention and treatment.

Last summer, Sorensen served as the organizer for the March for Universal Health Care, a rally that united unions, health care providers, and medical consumers in the call for equitable health care for all Americans. She also traveled to Durban, South Africa, to participate in the 13th International AIDS Conference, where she served as press liaison for Women at Durban, a satellite conference that provided workshops and trainings by and for HIV-infected women, including many from local townships and neighboring African countries.

Recently, Sorensen has served as a link between anti-globalization activist groups and the communities of color impacted by unjust trade and social policies. In April 2000, Sorensen facilitated the participation of over 500 African-American HIV-positive Philadelphians in the core rally and march at the Washington, D.C. Mobilization for Global Justice. In June 2000, she helped put together a groundbreaking training for low-income people and people of color in Philadelphia, designed to increase their skills as advocates in their communities.

Currently, Sorensen is continuing to work with ACT UP Philadelphia and the Nobel-prize winning organization Doctors Without Borders, on a highly-successful campaign to put affordable AIDS medications and other lifesaving drugs within the reach of the millions of HIV-infected individuals in the developing world.


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