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Stop the Scapegoating of Prostitutes on the 82nd

Date: September 16, 2008

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog, but I have a good excuse this time. I’ve been working with other women from the neighbourhood to start this group: 82ndCARES Coalition.

The story starts in September 2007, when City of Portland abolished controversial Drug Free Zone and Prostitution Free Zone. These “zones” grants police the power to issue “exclusion” order for anyone who is suspected of drug- or prostitution-related activity, long before there is any criminal conviction. Because these “zones” unfairly target people based on their race, class and gender, many people have protested DFZ/PFZ for years. So it was a great news when the City finally recognized them for what they were: violation of our civil rights and liberties.

But ever since, some neighbours in the previously PFZ areas–especially along NE/SE 82nd Avenue–have complained about the increased level of street prostitution and other crimes they associate with it. It resulted in formation of several neighbourhood groups that either seek reinstatement of PFZ and/or other strategies to contain the prostitution “problem.” Some of these groups are more reasonable than others, but the whole conversation (neighbourhoods, police, city council, media) focused on solutions that center on how police can reduce prostitution and other crimes.

Tension is running high, and hostile, even hateful rhetoric has been exchanged. For example:

“The prostitutes are soooo obvious in their manner & in their dress. I have lived in the Montavilla area in the same house most of my life & I know these women are not the normal everyday citizen. The blatent strollers or those who just hang out on the Avenue has increased to the point of being very, very obvious. I am not low-class, nor is this neighborhood, but what is allowed to occur here is ghetto behavior. What the heck is going on??” – Barbara

“I don’t feel unsafe here or anything, but I agree this blatant behavior does seem ghetto-ish.” – Laura

“We need to address this as a community, now….. What do you think this is doing to the value of your property?” – Carol

“I have noted that some other communities have successfully reduced prostitution by taking pictures of the John / Hooker hook-up and publishing them in local papers. I have taken a couple of hook-up pics with my cell phone. Some communities have made posters of these pics. I would like to see a discussion of this issue. I am immediately concerned that by taking pics, picture takers might be in some jeopardy.” – Bruce

I am tired of hearing these voices repeated in the media as the voice of our neighbourhood. That is why I and other women (and people of other genders are welcome too–but so far it’s just women) have joined together to form 82ndCARES. “CARES” stands for Community Action for Resource, Education and Support for social worker types among you, and Community Action for Respect, Empowerment and Survival for activist types :-)

The fundamental belief of 82ndCARES Coalition is that we do not view prostitution on the 82nd as a law enforcement issue. We view the situation on the 82nd as a symptom of social and economic injustices in our society. The solution therefore is not more cops on the street or jail beds, but more affordable housing, more childcare, more treatment options, more education, and more just society.

Please check out our website and join our email list if you live in Portland.

1 Comment »

  1. Those pseudo-justice comments by the neighbors remind me of the movie called the Dogville… Great job forming the group and reacting immediately to the injustice being taking place, Emi. I hope your voice will get through.


    Comment by Chico Masak — September 23, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

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