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Police eventually broke the occupation with some violence , but it was a success, many of threatened fines were written off, serious investigations into the murders began, and the action sparked similar protests in other cities and it became the foundation of the international sex worker rights movement.
Not least is how current the protest seems, for all of the innumerable and drastic changes that the world has gone through in the past 43 years the story sounds all too familiar. Today sex workers around the world still walk the line between normalised violence against them, demonising social stigma and police intimidation and administrative indifference, many still face the fear of losing custody of their children. Sex workers supporting each other and making themselves heard can accomplish real change, even in the face of a society that marginalises and abandons them; even in the very centres of social power that perpetuate stigma and implicitly ratify violence against them.
Sex worker allies exist wherever people are able to see past stigma and stereotypes and connect to the shared humanity and right to not just safety but dignity that are the foundations of all communities that reject exploitation and division. Nobody deserves or should expect or accept violence, oppression and marginalisation, regardless of their background, their work or social mores.
Sex workers throughout history and in the present day have needed incredible strength, ingenuity, humour and resilience simply in order to work and enjoy the rights and social benefits that others take for granted. I want to acknowledge that the word is problematic, and state that in using here I am trying to walk the line between neither presuming to reclaim it nor undermining any reclamation that the sex workers wish to perform by its use. As such I welcome feedback from any sex workers who deem this use inappropriate and will be more than happy to modify this choice accordingly.
However, the core lessons of the occupation and its consequences still ring true: Sex workers supporting each other and making themselves heard can accomplish real change, even in the face of a society that marginalises and abandons them; even in the very centres of social power that perpetuate stigma and implicitly ratify violence against them.