Soho sex workers protest against forced evictions in Londons Soho
Demonstrators gather outside office of one of the main property owners in the area calling for them to stand up to the police
A new crackdown on sex workers in London's historic red light district risks putting women in danger and changing the character of Soho, sex workers and activists said on Wednesday.
Sex workers from three flats in Soho were evicted late on Tuesday afterpolice issued enforcement notices on landlords warning they could be prosecuted if they were found to be allowing "immoral activities".
Scotland Yard said police were working with Westminster council to tackle "all crime" in Soho.
On Wednesday sex workers and activists – some wearing sequinned masks and holding banners with slogans such as "I'd rather sell my body in Soho than sell my mind to a corporation" – gathered outside the offices of Soho Estates, one of the main property owners in the area , and called for them to "stand up" to police.
"Soho has always been one of the safest places in the country for women to work – it is transparent, well established and there has always been the support of the community," said Niki Adams from the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), who organised the protest. In the 19 "walk up" flats operating in Soho – where clients can come in off the street – women worked on their own, but were accompanied by a "maid" who helped with cleaning and also provided sex workers with more security in return for tips, she said. "If this continues I fear more women will choose to work on their own or on the street which will put them in much more danger." The actor Rupert Everett, who is making a documentary on prostitution, attended the protest, the ECP said.
In a statement Scotland Yard said police were working with the council to tackle crime which "includes using a range of tactics to tackle historic crime problems, but also ensures sex workers who are vulnerable or need assistance receive it and can access support networks and services". It went on: "Properties being used as a brothel do break the law and the police will take action where appropriate, as we have done over a number of years."
Secret Diary of a Street Girl
Thursday, October 10, 2013
protest as 26 Romilly Street is closed
A protest was organized yesterday against the closure of one of the walk ups in Soho, 26 Romilly Street. There is a Guardian newspaper article about it and a post on the Time Out London blog. There is also a video on the Guardian story where you can hear a sex worker and a maid talking about how they feel about the attitude of the police.
One of the maids at the walk up stated "The police have completely changed, they've dragged customers naked out of bed, searched the flat – the girls are scared, they are not criminals. As far as I have understood one girl and one maid is not illegal, it's not a brothel."