Protest over police targeting prostitutes’ in Olympic host boroughs

07:00 01 May 2012

Campaigners getting petition signatures from passers-by in Whitechapel

Campaigners getting petition signatures from passers-by in Whitechapel

Archant

Campaigning women residents have begun a petition demanding police stop harassing street prostitutes in their name.

Police have been targeting prostitutes and kerb crawlers in the Olympic ‘host’ boroughs like Tower Hamlets to clean up the streets in the run-up to the summer Games.

The ‘zero tolerance’ policy has been brought in because of what they say is public demand before London goes under the international spotlight with tens-of-thousands of spectators arriving.

But a group of women residents were out launching their petition on Saturday asking police to change tactics.

“Woman shouldn’t be put through this harassment in our name as residents when it’s not true that we want to get rid of prostitutes,” said campaign co-ordinator Shannon Harvey.

“We want police instead to go after the kerb-crawlers who are the real danger to residents—not the women.

“Prostitutes don’t harass residents. But kerb-crawlers make many residents feel unsafe.”

Shannon, a 29-year-old domestic violence charity worker, was out in the rain with other volunteers on Saturday collecting signatures from passers-by and passengers coming out of Whitechapel station.

They plan a public meeting at Toynbee Hall on May 9 to press police to switch tactics.

The police targeting was sparked by calls at Tower Hamlets council in January to stop street prostitution before the Olympics open.

A delegation of families from Vallance Road, Bethnal Green, told councillors they had had enough of prostitution on their doorstep for the past 20 years.

It has led to a ‘get tough’ policy which has made 47 arrests for loitering and soliciting in the area so far since January.

Deputy Mayor Ohid Ahmed said at the time that residents had been telling the council that “street prostitution in Bethnal Green is an issue—that’s why we are working with police to tackle the problem.”

This operation enabled the authority to “identify women working as prostitutes and give them the support they need to get off the streets.”

But the Tower Hamlets Residents Against Persecution of Women in Prostitution campaign says arresting the women won’t get them, off the streets—it alienates them from the authorities and puts them in further danger.

The campaign, supported by Toynbee Hall, which has a ‘Safe Exit’ programme to help prostitutes quit, also has its petition online at:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/residents-solidarity-campaign/

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