Protesters light up New York skyscraper with “Send more ventilators” projection5 min read

Eleanor Gibson / 2 April 2020

Art-activist group The Illuminator has protested the US government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic by projecting calls to action onto a New York skyscraper.

The protest, which took place last Saturday night, aimed to highlight a number of issues faced by New York residents, including a lack of medical equipment, expensive health care and rent payments.

The Illuminator New York protest

“Free care for Covid”, “Healthcare for all”, “DC: more aid to NYC” were among the other phrases illuminated in bold white text on a Manhattan skyscraper.

“These are not radical demands,” said The Illuminator member Emily Andersen.

“These are requests for basic needs, needs that must be fulfilled if we are to survive not only this current outbreak, but the fallout that is soon to come after.”

The Illuminator New York protest

Measuring around 20-metres wide, the bold white messages lit up the top of a high-rise not far from the Empire State Building. The group said the projector was in a nearby apartment.

The Illuminator said the protest was aimed at officials in the local, state, and federal government, with the aim to draw attention to the crisis in New York. Over 1,000 people have already died in New York City from coronavirus, while New York State has reportedly nearly half of the country’s cases.

The “Cancel the rent” projection follows a call to suspend rent payments for people who have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn or are unable to work as they are sick.

The Illuminator New York protest

Many of the phrases were focused on the federal government in Washington DC, which had signed a $2 trillion (£1.62 trillion) stimulus bill to help stabilise the economy one day before. The package includes cheques for Americans, expanded unemployment benefits and aid for small businesses.

“Send more ventilators” and “DC: more aid to NYC” follow discourse between New York governor Andrew Cuomo and The White House. Cuomo has said that New York will need 30,000 ventilators in the coming weeks to help those suffering from the disease but the amount has been questioned by president Donald Trump.

“The system we have been operating in has exacerbated the severity of this crisis, and we cannot go back to business as usual,” said the The Illuminator’s Andersen.

“Business as usual is killing us,” she continued. “It is killing our friends, it is killing our families, and it is killing our future. We need change. We need federal aid now – help with medical supplies, testing, rent and debt relief.”

The “Free care for Covid” and “Healthcare for all” projections called for financial aid for health insurance companies and employees to help with payments to cover the healthcare of the sick.

The Illuminator New York protest

The protest also included a series of phrases that relate to ways to help mitigate the spread of the virus, such as “Wash your hands” and “Don’t touch your face”.

As New York’s coronavirus crisis intensifies, a number of temporary hospitals have already been created in the city. They include a field hospital comprising 68 beds in white tents opened in Central Park yesterday, a Navy hospital ship docked on Manhattan’s West Side and the Javits Convention Center.

Architects across America including New York’s BIG have also teamed up as part of an open-source project to manufacture face shields to protect hospital workers treating coronavirus patients.