by Cheryl Courtney-Evans
posted July 31, 2013
In a city that has proudly touted itself as "The City too Busy to Hate", the administration and law enforcement have set a course to prove that it is "The City too Busy to Care"...about anyone without plenty of money, good jobs or social clout [aimed at gentrification] living here.
Back in April I posted a piece called "Are They Gonna Try to "Put Lipstick on This 'Pig'??", detailing the move of the Atlanta Chief of Police, George Turner's proposal to the City Council to 'banish' street level sex workers from "areas of prostitution" [first conviction], then the City of Atlanta [on second conviction], along with higher initial fines and mandatory jail-served sentences...
Due to push back from the TBGLQ community's activists and allies, and thanks to an online petition and emails to the Mayor [Kasim Reed] and city councilmen/women, this draconian action was tabled and a "Working Group to Reduce Prostitution" (WGRP) was appointed by Kasim Reed to try and come up with something more effective, as well as humane in its procedure and enforcement. I warned then against them trying to "repackage" the initial proposal (or putting lipstick on the pig); I also warned everyone (after the first meeting of the WGRP) "PLEASE Don't 'Take Your Eyes Off the Ball' ", wanting my friends/readers in Atlanta to keep abreast of what your city officials are doing to abuse their authority here, with regards to the most marginalized of communities.
On July 12, the WGRP met and it was learned that the members of the group who belonged to the Atlanta Police Dept. (and I'm sure Ms. Peggy Denby as well) had met and prepared a 'plan' that they were prepared to unload on the rest of this august group. They had the plan they are pushing, and it includes the banishment that was the cause of the original broohaha that was the reason for the WGRP in the first place (it also includes "enhanced arrest practices" in that it recommends arresting more "johns" in sweeps)!!
This plan was objected to on its face by the community participants/activists of the group, as they said that they had not either had the chance to look over it, or had had no part in formulating it. Soooo....it was decided to put it off until the next meeting, meanwhile the community group, SNaP Co (Solutions Not a Punishment Coalition) had come up with a "Pre-Booking Diversion" plan that had been researched that would avoid booking and jail time, putting 'offenders' instead into programs that would provide job training, housing and drug treatment (if called for); this was a plan whose "blueprint" came from a working program being practiced in Seattle, WA. called the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. This program has been proved to work, and costs less tax dollars to implement than "strengthening" this old "lock'em up more" program proposed by the APD. Of course, the APD delegates didn't want to hear about it, so intent are they on putting theirs across. What they are doing is having a "committee to meet [this Friday] to assess 'our' plan" and then all are coming together to another "open" meeting next Friday [that's the one the community can come to] to decide on it.
Meanwhile, we of SNaP Co group have met this evening to put together a strategy of what we want to do; it was learned that an APD "liaison" had called the one community [SNaP Co] member of this "assessment" committee to tell her that her purpose would be to "help this plan move forward smoothly"...WTF??? No she didn't just as well tell her that she wasn't to have her own opinion, but assist putting this plan through the WGRP 'smoothly'.
This is such a ridiculous plan! First, it would not solve the "problem", but merely shift it to other parts of the city. Secondly, it would quite probably create another "crime", in that someone who actually lives in an "area of prostitution", could be arrested again JUST FOR GOING HOME (if they've been banned)...or are they expected to have found the money to just up and move outside of the "banned area"?? And finally, when the rubber meets the road, if individuals have been made to feel [experience] no other alternatives to survival, banishment or no banishment, arrest or no arrest, they will be back...what do they plan to do, build a wall or erect a fence around these areas [or Atlanta]? This will not solve anything; an improved system with services would be more logical, positive AND progressive.
And we of the low income transgender community of Atlanta [traditionally African American], know that the origin of this plan had us (basically located in the so-called "Midtown" [aka gayborhood] area) in the "crosshairs", with the male hustlers and cis gender females as "secondary" casualties...we are under no misconception that Ms. Peggy Denby (with her Midtown/Ponce Association [MPSA]) is not behind this initiative...she hates us just that much, that it's her mission.
Now here's an ACTION I'd like all of my Atlanta friends, readers and allies to take, if you agree that more effective, comprehensive and humane work can be done to reduce street level prostitution in the city of Atlanta.
Mayor Reed at 404-330-6100
Atlanta Police Department - Alice Johnson
(People are encouraged to contact both!)
We would ask that you use one of the following scripts in your emails or calls to these city officials:
"Hello! My name is ________________and I'm (say your position in the community, i.e., "resident of Atlanta" or "merchant in [whatever neighborhood]", service provider, etc.) ---
1) I'm calling (or emailing) about the City and APD's approach to prostitution/street level sex work in the City of Atlanta and to ask that you please put a STOP to the banishment proposal that has been put back on the table at the Working Group to Reduce Prostitution.
2) The banishment proposal, also known as SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) was defeated earlier this year in City Council because it is a failed enforcement-only approach that is bad policy and unacceptable in our City. Hundreds of community members voiced opposition and the mayor did the right thing in stopping the ordinance and creating the Working Group. So, it is shocking and troubling to hear it has been put back on the table for consideration!
3) Please pull the banishment ordinance back off the table immediately...do not waste any more precious resources or time discussing it, when real alternative solutions, such as the Pre-Booking Diversion Program, are being proposed. As a member of the community, I want to be clear that I support real solutions such as diversion, and do NOT support banishment in any form.
(Please be sure to say "Thank you" and give them your contact info if they ask for it; they probably won't call you back [just want to make sure you're a "constituent"]. REMEMBER...you don't have to know everything about everything to feel strongly about supporting Pre-Booking Diversion over Banishment.)
I HOPE WE HAVE ENOUGH READERS, FRIENDS AND ALLIES THAT FEEL STRONGLY ENOUGH TO MAKE THEM SIT UP AND TAKE NOTICE HERE IN ATLANTA!
Welcome to the blog that is intended for education, information, entertainment, news and advancement...and it's all about the Transgender community! If you're a transgender individual, I hope it provides you with all of the above as well as empowerment; if you're not a transgender, hopefully this blog will help in giving you a better understanding of the transgender community and that community's issues, achievements/abilities, "temperaments" and diversity. Overall, I hope your visit proves to be an interesting one.
Remember: "Communication is the Doorway through which Understanding may Walk."