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Are Sex Workers Coming to New York for the RNC?

StoryAugust 17, 2004
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The New York Daily News last month reported that sex workers from around the country will be flying in to New York for the Republican National Convention. We speak with the director of the Sex Workers Project about labor and sex workers’ rights. [includes rush transcript]

The New York Daily News reported last month that sex workers will be flying in from around the country for the Republican National Convention.

The article begins:
“With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.

“Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.

"We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week," said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. "It’s the week everyone wants to work."

But for sex workers here in New York, what does the Convention really mean? In a city famous for cracking down on strip clubs under former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, many sex workers are worried about being targeted by the police during the RNC.

  • Juhu Thukral, director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. Last year, the Project published a report called "Revolving Door: An Analysis of Street-Based Prostitution in New York City." The report documented sex workers experience with high levels of unreported violence, police harassment and violence, homelessness and lack of access to vital services. Now the Sex Workers Project is compiling a report on the problems indoor sex workers face in New York.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We saw this in The New York Daily News about — well, on June 28. It said, with thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party. Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the August 30-September 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden. We’re joined right now by Juhu Thukral, Director of the Sex Worker’s Project at Urban Justice Center. Last year, the project published a report, "Revolving Door: An Analysis of Street-Based Prostitution in New York City." First, is this true in terms of what’s happening for the convention?

JUHU THUKRAL: This may be happening, but that’s not what we’re hearing from prostitutes. That’s not the concerns that we are putting forward. The thing is that —

AMY GOODMAN: Are there preparations being made and does it happen at Democratic and Republican conventions around the country? Like in San Diego, in says the 1996 Republican convention, an escort service in search of delegate dollars changed its name to G.O.P., Good Old-fashioned Pleasure.

JUHU THUKRAL: You know, the sex workers that we’re concerned about are the ones out there on the streets, the ones who are already in very vulnerable and marginalized situations, and in fact, sex workers who are out there near the Madison Square Garden, in the hot zone for the convention and in fact throughout the city, are going to have problems receiving services that they — that they’re used to receiving. Outreach bands are not going to go out and get them. There’s going to be an increased police presence. So, you know, while on the one hand, there’s a story about prostitutes coming into the city to work, a lot of local prostitutes are saying that they don’t want to work that week because of fear of undercover police officers, because of just increased sweeps during that time. Because the city wants to put its best face on. They don’t want street-based prostitutes being the first thing that the Republican conventioneers see. We are actually talking about a different type of reality for sex workers here in New York.

AMY GOODMAN: Juhu Thukral, I want to thank you for being with us. Is there a website that people can go to or way —

JUHU THUKRAL: Sexworkersproject.org.

AMY GOODMAN: And they can see the report, "Revolving Door, An Analysis of the Street-Based Prostitution in New York City."

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