October 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm EDT | by Katlego K Kol-Kes
UK activists ‘Queen up’ the purple carpet

Members of ACT UP London protested proposed cuts to the U.K. National Health Service during the premier of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in London on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Levi Hinds)

LONDON — A group of HIV/AIDS activists in the U.K. proved that the fight is far from over and creativity will never die.

During the premiere of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” film premiere on Oct. 23 at the Wembley SSE Arena, activists from ACT UP London and the NHS Anti-Swindle Team occupied the purple carpet.

The pop-up demonstration was drama befitting the late Freddie Mercury himself. While a storm of opinions has been brewing around the much anticipated biopic about the life of the Queen lead singer, HIV/AIDS activists in the U.K. have also been advocating against proposed cuts to the National Health Service’s budget.

“In the midst of the biggest refugee crisis since the second world war, our commitment to universal healthcare is more important than ever.” opined Ray Malone of the NHS Anti-Swindle Team, concluding that “the humanitarian principles that the NHS was founded on, that we are all entitled to the same treatment regardless of wealth or background are being eroded by the government’s toxic, hostile environment.”

Freddie Mercury, who is portrayed by Rami Malek in the film, is a global icon whose life — public and private — shattered many barriers through revolutionary expression. While many have tried to box his legacy in terms of being just a rock star, or an openly gay superstar, or someone who lived with HIV and later died from AIDS-related complications; what Malek and the demonstrating activists agree on is that his legacy is considerably intersectional, and poignant in these tumultuous times. As part of the demonstration, the group remixed the words to the Queen hit song, “Don’t stop me now!,” turning it into a rallying call to politicians to consider the plight of those reliant on the NHS. (Read the lyrics below.)

“Freddie ‘Killer Queen’ Mercury was a migrant who died from AIDS and today HIV+ migrants are some of the most oppressed in the HIV / AIDS community.” said Jeremy Goldstein of ACT UP LONDON, adding that, “We are here today to highlight the ongoing crisis.” Dan Glass of ACT UP London, who notoriously superglued himself to then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, said the core of the demonstration was “to ensure comprehensive and easily accessible treatment for all people, in all countries. This includes not only medications but also mental and social health services as well as housing and economic equality. Here in the U.K., we are united with the coalition of activists fighting to keep our National Health Service free, publicly run and fully funded.”

Though this may be yet another film adding to a catalogue of historical figures in the LGBT+ canon, a legacy like Freddie Mercury’s can’t help but ignite a few passions and unite some revolutions along the way. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ will be in U.S. cinemas on Friday.

“Don’t cut me now” lyrics

Don’t cut me now
I’m entitled to free healthcare
I don’t pay at all.

Don’t cut me now
If I wanted U.S. healthcare
I’d give Branson a call.

Don’t cut me now – ’cause we’re having a sh*t time
Don’t cut me now –  yes, we’re having a sick time
I don’t wanna die at all!’

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