"Grab your makeup, fix your hair, prostitutes are everywhere!"
Let the Fight Begin
Prostitutes Rights vs. the Courts and Repressive Laws

Update 9/5/03

Great News from Oakland

The busted teacher decided to fight the prostitution arrest
Many are supporter her as a test case on the Constitutionality of private sexwork in line with Supreme Court privacy decision related to gays:

Teacher denies prostitution charge

OAKLAND -- Shannon Williams, the Berkeley school teacher arrested on prostitution charges during a police sting operation in Oakland last month, entered a not-guilty plea in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday, extending her court proceedings for at least another month.

"We basically want to give both sides a chance to put more information on the table before there's a decision," said Williams' attorney, Katya Komisaruk of the Just Cause Law Collective. And to get more attention on the issue of legalizing prostitution, she said.

"Not that I set out to be the poster child for prostitution," Williams, 37, said outside the courthouse. "But this will certainly get people to focus on legalization of prostitution, that sex is not a crime and that sex workers should be allowed the same rights as any other profession."

As the soft-spoken Williams appeared in court, several prostitutes and supporters wearing feather boas and pink leopard-print lingerie once again promoted legalization outside the courthouse, bearing signs such as, "Prostitutes are Teachers too!"

Williams' next court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 1, at which time the misdemeanor charges could be dropped or the case could proceed to trial, Komisaruk said.

Source: http://www.oaklandtribune.com/Stories/0,1413,82%257E1726%257E1610158,00.html

Prior Reports:

Shannon Williams Arrest in Oakland

"I'm an ass man," says arresting officer in police report

According to the police report, undercover officer Mark Turpin announced: "I'm an ass man." Then, grasping his suspect's buttocks with both hands, he demanded "Can I fuck you in the ass?" Moments later, at least eight additional Oakland police officers crowded into the apartment, surrounding Shannon Williams, the former Berkeley High School teacher charged with prostitution.

Info and the community getting upset about the arrest at:
Prostitutes Right's 2004 Ballot Initiative Coming Soon in California
Prostitutes Right's Organization
Including her picture and Court updates as well as rally's being scheduled for support and make the public aware that: "It's time to decriminalize prostitution now. Prostitutes are not criminals."

August 28, 2003 - Highlights from Oakland Tribune article
OAKLAND -- about 20 prostitutes rallied outside the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on Wednesday morning as a Berkeley schoolteacher arrested for selling sex as a sideline made a brief court appearance. Shannon Williams, 37, was scheduled to enter a plea, but the case was held over until next Wednesday.

It was more boisterous outside the courthouse, however, as prostitutes seized the opportunity to promote the legalization of their age-old profession and to oppose police tactics in Williams' Aug. 13 arrest. "Grab your makeup, fix your hair, prostitutes are everywhere!" they chanted, led by the pink-haired Miss Scarlet Harlot -- also known as Carol Leigh of a San Francisco-based sex workers' rights organization called Coyote.

"They send 10 officers to bust one teacher -- that kind of overkill is out of control," Leigh said of Williams' arrest. "The vice cops apparently can find their jobs very titillating." ... eight to 10 officers barged into the apartment and trained their guns on Williams during the arrest. She also claims male officers taunted Williams while she stood in her negligee for at least 20 minutes, until a female officer arrived.

"Basically, making arrests on the street is dangerous. But it's even more dangerous in a residence," said Oakland police Lt. Ben Fairow, commander of the vice/narcotics unit. (Dave notes, yes those dangerous bare breasts might cause the police to stare and fall over a chair and have their gun go bang)

Williams, a fair woman with long black hair, stood quietly with her attorney during much of Wednesday's rally, but did offer a prepared statement. "As a feminist, I believe in every woman's right to self-determination, including sexual and economic," Williams told reporters. "Women in the sex industry are entrepreneurs who should be granted the same rights as workers in other fields." Williams also said she agrees with Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., that "if the law is wrong, it must be challenged," she said.

"Despite the publicity, it is not unusual that Shannon is a teacher," said Lynn Davis, a call girl for the past 18 years and member of the Cyprian Guild in San Francisco, a group of about 30 independently operating call girls. "Many of us have other jobs, and many come from the helping professions -- nurses or teachers or therapists. A lot of us care about other people and want to make people happy. It helps a lot to like other people, especially men," Davis said.

Another article says,
Calling the investigation and prosecution of Shannon Williams a misuse of public resources, the educator's lawyer complained that a team of 10 officers stormed Williams' apartment and refused to let her get dressed for 20 minutes. "Having all those cops was excessive and very expensive, and when the cops got there they behaved like wolves," said Katya Komisaruk of the Just Cause Law Coalition. "They shackled her, laughing, taunting her....She was only wearing a leopard print negligee,"

Feminist teacher defends her prostitution
Says women have right to self-determination, sexually and economically
August 28, 2003

A Berkeley, Calif., High School teacher is defending her moonlighting career as a prostitute, comparing herself to Martin Luther King Jr. in her fight to decriminalize the vocation. "As a feminist I believe in every woman's right to self-determination, and that includes sexually and economically,'' Shannon Williams, 37, told the San Jose Mercury News. Williams, a former biology teacher who became a field-trip coordinator last year, was arrested earlier this month in her Oakland apartment, the paper said. Police say she agreed to have sex with an undercover cop for $250 an hour.

The woman is determined to eliminate laws against the world's oldest profession.

"I feel like a gay teacher must have felt 20 years ago after being outed,'' she told the San Jose paper. "I feel that prostitution laws are dinosaurs. That they're similar to sodomy laws, and they will eventually be repealed.'' The teacher told reporters outside the courthouse she believed women in the "sex industry" are entrepreneurs and should have the same rights as other workers.

E-mail from NJ Madam we often quote to Carol Leah of Coyote and copied to Dave says in part:
I just read about Shannon Williams arrest. I think the time has come now that there is a high-profile case. Geraldo and Dateline had called my lawyer. Maybe Shannon can get on some of those shows. I want to be a supporter. I have a story to tell about how they steal our property and how I was treated. I believe we have a Constitutional leg to stand on now.

Congressman Barney Frank of Mass. was on Hardball last month. He was talking about "taxpayer dollars being spent on a study on whether or not older men need companionship so we should legalize prostitution". He was more concerned with the money involved. He called us "drug-addicted, disease carrying women". This from a politician and a man who leads an alternative lifestyle. What frightening ignorance.

Other article quotes
"I look forward to supporting the brave people who will soon take the issue of prostitution to the Supreme Court," Williams said. Williams said the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision on sodomy laws in Texas backed her argument for legalizing prostitution. "What happens between two consenting adults behind closed doors should ot come under government regulation," she said. Williams may go to trial to challenge anti-prostitution laws in court,
said Williams' lawyer, Katya Komisaruk.

Komisaruk argued that police acted inappropriately during the arrest and the media attention has "drastically changed" Williams' life. Ten police officers surrounded Williams and taunted her, telling her they were going to march her down the street in her lingerie, Komisaruk said. After Williams cried and begged officers to let her put her clothes on for 20 minutes, a female officer finally stepped forward and stopped the tormenting, Komisaruk said.

Oakland police Officer Danielle Ashford said she could not confirm or deny these claims but added that if Williams has a complaint she can speak to the police department's Internal Affairs Division. People don't seem to realize arrests are unpleasant, Ashford added.

Police detained one protester outside who stripped off her shirt and bra. The crowd followed as officers escorted the bare-breasted woman into the courthouse. "More boobs in public, less boobs in public office," she shouted. "Consensual sex is not a crime." An officer held the woman's hands behind her back, as he escorted her into an elevator.

A protester carried an effigy of John Ashcroft in jailhouse stripes. Williams supporters carried signs. One read, "Shocking news: teachers have sex too."

COYOTE: The Sex Workers' Rights Organization
http://www.bayswan.org/COYOTE.html 415-751-1659

COYOTE protests the arrest of teacher, Shannon Williams for prostitution, which was accomplished by a team of approximately ten police officers descending upon and pointing guns at a woman in leopard print lingerie. COYOTE calls for an inquiry into arrest priorities and procedures in Oakland in cases of suspected prostitution. Scandals have plagued the Oakland Police Department and this form of overkill and intimidation is another indication that the Department is out of control.

As Williams' attorney, Katya Komisaruk stated, ""If it takes ten cops to arrest a prostitute, then it probably takes forty cops to arrest a drug dealer, and several hundred to arrest a murderer. No wonder we're not doing so well here in Oakland."

According to polls in the Bay Area over a number of years, there is wide support for decriminalization of prostitution. Although residents are concerned with neighborhood safety, the majority consistently agrees that private sexual contracts should not be criminalized. Why, then are so many resources allocated to ththis expensive enforcement? These arrests are of no benefit to the community. They only create a cycle of recidivism for those arrested. Arrest is often traumatic and destructive. A conviction on a woman's record limits her job options.

Why is there so little information published about arrests and the expenses incurred in the enforcement of the prohibition of this victimless crime? Why were (approximately) 10 police officers assigned to arrest one woman? How much time (and overtime) did this cost Oakland?

"Oakland certainly has more problems than the nuances of behavior behind closed doors in a woman's apartment," says COYOTE representative, Carol Leigh. "The Oakland Police Department has been plagued with scandals. Laws against this victimless crime breed corruption and hypocrisy. The vice cops can find their jobs very titillating. Then where do they go to deal with their frustrations? They go to San Leandro, like the two Oakland vice officers arrested last year for soliciting prostitution." (SF Chronicle, 9/28/2002)

There are many questions involved Ms. Williams' arrest and the community deserves to know:

* How much does Oakland spend each year on prostitution-related arrests? These figures include police costs (salary and overtime for officers) as well as incarceration and court costs. (According to COYOTE's research and figures from the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution Report, cities spend millions on these arrests.)

* How many hours do Oakland Police officers spend surfing the web, visiting explicit websites and chat rooms?

* How are prostitution related arrests initiated? The Police Department claims that this arrest was made on the basis of a complaint. Complaints are almost always cited as motivation for prostitution related arrests, but there is no documentation available about these complaints. Due to the corruption and bias often associated with enforcement of victimless crime laws, COYOTE holds that some documentation should be provided, such as: time and date that complaints are made, officer who received the complaint and the details of these complaints which do not interfere with required anonymity. These records should be available upon request.

*Hundreds of people are arrested for prostitution each year in Oakland, but rarely is there any press coverage of particular defendants. Which representative of the Oakland Police Department submitted the details of Ms. Williams' arrest (and the fact that she is a teacher) to the media? Was that an individual's decision, or the result of policy?

COYOTE calls for an end to this prohibition and stigmatization. Laws against prostitution result in violence against sex workers and discrimination against sex workers and clients. COYOTE supports decriminalization of commercial sex between consenting adults.

Justice Scalia recently reminded us that state laws against prostitution are sustainable only with "validation of laws based on moral choices." The majority of the Supreme recently noted the court's "obligation to define the liberty of all, not to mandate its own moral code...Times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress." (Justice Kennedy, Lawrence v. Texas)

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