The artist Nan Goldin and 12 other members of a group that is waging a protest campaign over the US opioid crisis were arrested today during a demonstration in front of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s staff office in New York City, the police said.
The chanting, sign-waving group was detained around noon and charged with disorderly conduct, a New York Police Department spokesman said. He said that the protesters had been asked to disperse but had refused to do so.
A spokesman at the department’s central booking office said this evening that the protesters were still being processed and had not yet been released.
Activists in the group, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, or PAIN, accused Cuomo of failing to take adequate steps to brake opioid deaths in New York State and called on him to open overdose treatment centers across the state.
In 2017, 3,224 overdose deaths involving opioids were recorded in New York—a rate of 16.1 deaths per 100,000 persons compared with an average national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports.
A spokesman for the New York State Department of Health defended the governor’s record, saying in a statement: “Governor Cuomo has led an aggressive, comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic with a focus on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery and enforcement, and we are committed to exploring all options to reduce opioid deaths.”
He said that state officials have been “in active dialogue with advocates” on the proposal for overdose treatment centers “while addressing potential law enforcement concerns and the threat of legal challenges. Above all, our top priority is protecting the lives of New Yorkers.”
ARTNews meanwhile reported that Goldin, who formed PAIN last year, could be seen at the protest this morning locking arms with other activists while sitting in front of the office building’s entrance with a sign that said, “Governor While You Wait New Yorkers Die”.
PAIN is better known for the protests it has staged at museums that have accepted funding from benefactors in the Sackler family, which controls the opioid drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Among the numerous art institutions that have been targeted are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Freer/Sackler and the Louvre.
On Tuesday, it was reported that the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma were in discussions on a proposed multibillion-dollar settlement of over 2,000 federal and state lawsuits related to the US opioid epidemic. Under the proposed agreement, which would require that the family and the company pay $10bn to $12 bn, the Sacklers would reportedly yield control of Purdue Pharma.
The company is accused of aggressively marketing the painkiller OxyContin while playing down the risk that it will lead to opioid addiction.