Target Accused of Selling 'Silence = Death' Shirt Without Permission - Rolling Stone
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Target Accused of Selling ‘Silence = Death’ Shirt Without Permission

“We have been fighting the commodification of AIDS for years and this is the latest edition,” ACT UP says of Target’s unauthorized Pride-themed item

Gay rights activists holding a banner that reads 'Silence = Death' make their way down Central Park South during the Gay Pride March, New York, New York, June 26, 1994. The march commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. (Photo by Walter Leporati/Getty Images)Gay rights activists holding a banner that reads 'Silence = Death' make their way down Central Park South during the Gay Pride March, New York, New York, June 26, 1994. The march commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. (Photo by Walter Leporati/Getty Images)

Gay rights activists holding a banner that reads 'Silence = Death' make their way down Central Park South during the Gay Pride March, New York, New York, June 26, 1994. The march commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. (Photo by Walter Leporati/Getty Images)

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Target is being accused of selling merchandise with the LGBTQ rights slogan “Silence = Death” without permission and without compensating the non-profit organization that owns the rights to the phrase.

Social media users noticed a “Pride Adult Silence Is Death” shirt on Target’s website, with the item’s listing noting that the online-only garment was a collaboration with the Phluid Project, a clothing label that heralds “gender-free and purpose-driven shopping, with a spotlight on queer, trans, black, Latinx, and women-owned brands,” according to its website.

However, the “Silence = Death” slogan and the inverted pink triangle logo — the triangle was used by the Nazis to identify and persecute homosexuals beginning in 1933 — has long been associated with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) organization, which were given the rights to the symbol and phrase from the Silence = Death Project that coined it in 1987.

On Twitter, asked if they were aware of the Target item and if they’re receiving any proceeds from its sale, ACT UP wrote, “We can answer that for you: No. Both @Target and @phluidproject did not get permission to use “SILENCE = DEATH” art. We have been fighting the commodification of AIDS for years and this is the latest edition.” 

“This product honors the challenges a generation of mostly gay men faced with ignorance and injustice,” the item’s description states. “In the Eighties, gay activists in New York inverted the pink triangle used to identify homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps and added the slogan ‘SILENCE = DEATH.’ During the height of the AIDS crisis, they plastered this image around the city and released a manifesto declaring ‘silence about the oppression and annihilation of gay people, then and now, must be broken as a matter of our survival.'”

The shirt was still listed for sale on the Target site as part of a larger Pride-themed collection Friday morning, but was removed from the retailer’s website Friday afternoon. “This shirt was designed by our vendor partner, The Phluid Project, who is working directly with ACT UP to address their concerns,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “The item is only available on Target.com and we’ve temporarily pulled it from our assortment until the concern is resolved.”

ACT UP added of the unsanctioned T-shirt, “If you want to support our work buy from us: give.actupny.com/gear/.”

In This Article: AIDS, Target

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