Atlantic City, NJ – Over forty years ago, a collective of sex workers living in France began to organize. United, they demanded accountability for police violence, to investigate gruesome murders against the community and to end the laws that made working conditions more violent. In reaction, the French government began jailing dissenters, claiming they were withholding tax payments. Sex workers had had enough. On June 2nd 1975, over 100 sex workers occupied the Church of St. Nizier in Lyon in cooperation with its priest. Over the church hung the sign “OUR CHILDREN DON’T WANT THEIR MOTHERS IN PRISON!”
While the protest was violently broken down several days later, it sparked a nationwide movement and forced the government to investigate several of the murders that had happened to French sex workers. Every year since then, sex workers around the world have recognized June 2 as International Whore’s Day and use the day to reaffirm community efforts in holding governments accountable for their human rights violations. In 2016, this tradition continues in Atlantic City.
On Friday, June 3 sex worker advocates, community members and allies will stand in solidarity and rally in the streets of Atlantic City. Sponsored by the New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance and the Sex Workers Outreach Project Philadelphia Chapter, participants will meet at noon in City Center Park (on Atlantic & South Carolina Avenue) and travel to pre-planned political establishments throughout the city demanding accountability and change in policy. Specifically, advocates are attempting to draw attention of the Mayor’s Office, Atlantic Civil Court House, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, and the Department of Public Safety. Advocates will distribute information sheets as they engage residents and tourists in Atlantic City. At select locations, community members will share their stories of political corruption, rights violations and inexcusable action as a result of failed government policies. More information about the rally can be found on our Facebook event page or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While none of these Atlantic City establishments control the political climate in Trenton, where the final battle for decriminalization of sex work will need to happen in New Jersey, NJRUA recognizes that Atlantic City is undergoing radical institutional and visionary changes in response to its financial crisis. As sex worker advocates, we demand to be a part of this process and have our concerns heard. Atlantic City can make enforcement of prostitution laws low-priority, end wasteful sting-operations, outlaw condoms as evidence for prostitution-related charges, and expand good samaritan laws so sex workers and drug users can report acts of violence with immunity. These actions are in Atlantic City’s hands, but are they listening? On June 3, we will make our voices heard.