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65 arrested in latest sweep

Police bragging one day before international hooker protest

Police appeared to thumb their noses at harm reduction advocates just one day before a protest designed to illustrate the dangers faced by the city’s sex workers.

Ottawa Police Services charged 65 people with over 250 street-level crimes in its latest blitz Dec 16, according to Roley Campbell, a sergeant with the police. Charges include drug possession, drug trafficking, breach of conditions, robbery and communication for the purposes of prostitution.

It’s the biggest street sweep of its kind in recent months.

The announcement came just one day before International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

“I wish the police acted in more predictable, rational ways, but sometimes their choices seem baffling,” says Nicholas Little of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.

ACO has planned a demonstration today (Dec 17) to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The event will begin with a march at 5pm at Cumberland and Laurier. There will also be a vigil at the Human Rights Memorial at 5:30 and a reception at Venus Envy at 6:15pm.

Despite the snow-clogged streets after this weekend’s winter storm, Little encourages people to come out and show solidarity.

“We’re still expecting lots of people,” he says. “Certainly, people can come to any part they like. If people want, they can come to the vigil for a half hour and then head to Venus Envy — no problem. A good chunk of the event is indoors.”

ACO and police top brass have skirmished before, most prominently over police confiscation of ACO-issued crack pipes. ACO distributes the pipes to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis among drug users, but police often confiscate the pipes, leaving users to fashion unsafe. ACO staff are frequently quoted in Capital Xtra and elsewhere opposing the confiscation of pipes and the harassment of prostitutes.

In November, Ottawa Police Services announced that a nine-member team would be targetting drug users and sex workers as part of its new Street Crime Unit. It’s a pilot project which will be reevaluated in Sep 2008.