Friday, June 22, 2007

In Memoriam: Michael Bellefountaine

I first saw Michael Bellefountaine when he was marching against the pending war in Iraq in January of 2003. He was notable for carrying a sign that said “Peace for Israel as well.” That made him stand out in a crowd of Palestinian flags, anti-Semitic sentiments, and signs that blamed Israel for all the evils in the world.

Michael was a radical AIDS activist involved with the very controversial ACT-UP/SF and denied that HIV was cause of AIDS. His antics were notorious and included disrupting health official meetings, participating in events where people threw pills at assemblies, and getting in a fight with ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer. In contrast to his public persona, one on one he was a very gentle person whose frequent parting line was “Peace and Love” and he meant it.

Like many radical activists in San Francisco, Michael became increasingly disgusted with the high level of anti-Semitism and Israel bashing that had become all too prevalent in many left movements in general and in the anti-war movement in particular. In response, he started making his own signs to carry in anti-war marches that expressed his support for Israel and her right to live in peace.

In June of 2004, Michael was on his way to a yet another anti-war march with one of his pro-Israel signs when he saw something new and exciting that San Francisco had only just started to experience – people standing up in public to support Israel. This was the San Francisco Voice for Israel pro-Israel counter-rally to the ANSWER event. He decided to join our march instead of once again attempting to stand as a lone progressive voice for Israel amongst the ANSWER rabble.

In very short order, Michael became more and more involved with helping to organize this new pro-Israel street presence. He brought decades of activist experience and contacts to the table. In addition, he provided much valuable information on individuals on the other side, some of whom had been his colleagues in other movements.

Michael died last month of complications from HIV.

To read obituaries such as this one in the Bay Area Reporter, one might be tempted to believe that Michael had given up on activism in 2004 for a life of academia. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was an invaluable contributor to our efforts against anti-Israel hatred and anti-Semitism on the streets of the Bay Area.
He was a friend as well as a colleague. We will miss him greatly.


Denise said...

MIchael did not die from complications of HIV or from the side effects of Hiv/AIDS drugs. He died of a systematic infection that many people have died of and has nothing to do with HIV or AIDS

Betty said...

I'm almost certain that the man in the top photo is not Michael.

I say this because I knew him pretty well.