Bay Area Sex Workers to Hold Presser, Rally Tomorrow

Bay Area Sex Workers to Hold Presser, Rally Tomorrow
Rhett Pardon

SAN FRANCISCO — Tomorrow, sex worker groups from around the Bay Area will convene for a press conference and rally outside the federal courthouse in Oakland, Calif.

They’ll be there to support a favorable decision in the lawsuit, ESPLERP v. Gascon. The suit, filed in February on behalf of several women and a man, seeks to topple California’s anti-prostitution statute, Section 647(b) of the Penal Code, on grounds that it is “fundamentally” unconstitutional.

ESPLERP, formally known as the Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project, is hoping that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White will rule against a motion by the district attorneys of four California counties — Alameda, Marin, San Francisco and Sonoma  as well as state Attorney General Kamala Harris — that would dismiss their case entirely.

“Current prostitution laws enable violent predators to target our community because they know that our illegal status deters many of us from coming forward and making police reports,” ESPLERP’s Maxine Doogan said. “That’s why getting a favorable ruling in our case is imperative as it will save lives.  

“Since the federal judge is under no obligation to make his ruling in any specific time frame, sex workers will continue to vulnerable to violence. We demand decriminalization of our occupation now as a means to begin to respects our human rights and dignity, helps guard us against violence and abuse, and improves our access to justice.”

The grassroots organization said in a release Wednesday that they’ll be in front of the courthouse “to call for the remembrance of sex worker victims” on “The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers,” an annual and global event that falls on each Dec. 17.

“The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (IDEVASW) started in 2003 when serial killer Gary Ridgway admitted killing over 70 women in Washington State in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Doogan said. “When his rampage ended, he said he had picked prostitutes as victims because they were the easiest targets and that no one would miss them.

“Well he was wrong about that. Many of the family and friends did and do grieve.”

ESPLERP’s press conference and rally will be held Thursday at noon-1 p.m. at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Federal Courthouse in Oakland, 1303 Clay St., Oakland, Calif.