Protesters: Set the Prostitutes Free!

Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

August 27, 1964, Vol. IX, No. 45

'Free Them, Insure Them, And Make Them Legal'

By Susan Goodman

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An attempt to free the prostitutes in the Women's House of Detention early Sunday afternoon nearly landed an onlooker in the Greenwich Avenue jail for the night. All the six demonstrators from the League for Sexual Freedom wanted was to test a ban against setting up card-tables in front of the city-owned jail.

They got their test and more. League-member Fred Cherry, age 38, politely received a summons for blocking the sidewalk from a courteous policeman. He had set up a bridge-table with a petition calling for the legalizing of prostitution. A private lawyer will fight the summons on the ground that it infringed on Cherry's constitutional right to petition. The case goes to court September 3.

Jefferson Poland, the League's youthful head, told The Voice he had wasted days trying to get a permit from various "buck-passing" departments. They just kept sending him back to the Sixth Precinct where the cops weren't apparently buying any of that sex stuff. "The political clubs and CORE put up tables next to Washington Square Park. Why can't we collect signatures in front of the jail?" Poland asked.

After Cherry's summons, the petition went mobile. The League members paraded about with it and collected 20 signatures. A sympathizer, describing the group, said, "They looked like a nice Quakerish bunch of pacifists and hard-up boys."

A curious bystander, Naomi Levine, ruffled the harmony of the scene by not immediately obeying to a policeman's order to "move on." Miss Levine, a filmmaker to whom the civil-disobedience role is not unfamiliar, was quickly hauled off to a waiting paddy wagon.

"My immediate response when I see someone arrested is to protest it. So, even though I had never seen her before, I called for a march to the Charles Street station house," Poland explained later. The group milled about there for a bit, then disbanded. Poland ended up bailing Miss Levine out of the Women's House of Detention at 1 a.m. She goes to court Wednesday on a disorderly conduct charge.

A leaflet distributed by the League Sunday affirms, "We believe the prostitute has been made an outlaw only because she is promiscuous. She is a symbol of our suppressed sexual desires, so we prosecute her." They want to legalize prostitution, establish voluntary rehabilitation programs, as well as set up a system of medical insurance and "benefits" for the women.

"We're not planning any more demonstrations on prostitution as we don't want to get into a rut," Poland told The Voice. He indicated they might turn their attentions next to the "super-secret" collection of sex-books hidden in the vaults of the 42nd Street public library.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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