From: gaycitynews.com

Protest Against Rentboy.com Raid Targets Brooklyn Courthouse

By Duncan Osborne
September 3, 2015

A demonstrator outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse on September 3 protesting the raid on rentboy.com.

A demonstrator outside the Brooklyn federal courthouse on September 3 protesting the raid on rentboy.com. | DONNA ACETO

 

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | Some 70 people turned out to the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn to protest the raid on rentboy.com and the arrests of the gay escorting website’s chief executive and six of its employees, and to demand that the charges against all seven be dropped.

“This is a waste of taxpayer money,” said William Dobbs, a gay civil libertarian, during the September 3 protest. “This doesn’t make the world safer or better.”

Rentboy.com was raided by the US Department of Homeland Security on August 25 with help from the NYPD. Jeffrey Hurant, the chief executive, and the other six employees have been charged with violations of the federal Travel Act, a 1961 statute that bars using the mail, a telephone, or the Internet to facilitate interstate or foreign prostitution, among other offenses. The case is being prosecuted by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, which is headquartered in Brooklyn.

"Crowd of 70 demands charges be dropped, echoes widespread calls for sex work decriminalization"

“Right now, the US attorney controls seven people’s lives,” Dobbs said. “He is on the spot to drop the charges.”

Holding signs saying “Decriminalize sex work” and “Protect sex work,” among many messages, protestors chanted and marched in a circle across from the courthouse while police, including NYPD, and some federal employees watched from across a street that is closed to through traffic.

Protesters point to the health and safety downside of criminalizing sex work. | DONNA ACETO

Protesters point to the health and safety downside of criminalizing sex work. | DONNA ACETO

The raid and arrests have sparked angry denunciations on websites and Facebook and condemnations from at least 28 groups, including a number of leading LGBT groups. Members of the National LGBTQ Task Force turned out for the protest. A number of groups that condemned the rentboy.com raid had joined Amnesty International in calling for the decriminalization of prostitution just days before the raid.

“This is an updated, digitized raid, just like Stonewall,” said Allen Roskoff, president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an LGBT political group, during the protest.

For escorts who advertised on rentboy.com and joined the protest, closing the site has made their lives and livelihoods more difficult.

Justin, 24, had used rentboy.com, craigslist, and backpage during his four years of escorting. Craigslist and backpage restricted the language he could use, and he found himself having to negotiate more with clients.

“Negotiating was much more difficult,” Justin said.

Rentboy.com did not produce that problem because it allowed him to say upfront what he would and would not do and what he would charge. He made more money on rentboy.com.

“What made it easier, I didn’t have to worry that my posts were suddenly going to disappear,” Justin said. “I didn’t have to use coded language that was easily misinterpreted.”

Demonstrators make the case that decriminalizing sex work can lead to better public health outcomes. | DONNA ACETO

Demonstrators make the case that decriminalizing sex work can lead to better public health outcomes. | DONNA ACETO

Michael, 22, did not fully share Justin’s view of rentboy.com, but it did allow him to be more selective among clients.

“It’s a screening tool,” Michael said. “You’re better able to filter out a lot of people.”

Andy, 24, has been in the sex trade for 10 years and finding his clients on the street or trading sex for a place to stay. He never used rentboy.com because of its $59.99 monthly fee. But he has friends who used it, and he was aware of its reputation.

“I think rentboy was one of the most explicit online platforms,” he said. “In that way, it was safer… I think it felt safer to people because it allowed people to be more explicit.”

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. Charles Bayor
  5. John Blair
  6. Mark Benoit
  7. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  8. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  9. Erik Bottcher
  10. Robin Byrd
  11. Hon. Gale Brewer
  12. Christian Campbell
  13. Gus Christensen
  14. Hon. Martin Connor
  15. Tom Connor
  16. Hon. Jon Cooper
  17. Wilson Cruz
  18. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  19. Alan Cumming
  20. Valorie Curry
  21. Michael Czaczkes
  22. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  23. Jon Del Giorno
  24. Aries Dela Cruz
  25. Kyan Douglas
  26. James Duff
  27. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  28. Hon. Rafael Espinal
  29. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  30. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  31. Dan Gettleman
  32. Jason Goldman
  33. Emily Jane Goodman
  34. Hon. Mark Green
  35. Tony Hoffmann
  36. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  37. Binn Jakupi
  38. Hon. Letitia James
  39. Hon. Corey Johnson
  40. Camille Joseph
  41. Phillip Keane
  42. Yetta Kurland
  43. Dodge Landesman
  44. Chris Marchitello
  45. Phillip McCarthy
  46. Matt McMorrow
  47. Michael Mallon
  48. Mike C. Manning
  49. David Mansur
  50. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  51. Troy Masters
  52. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  53. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  54. John Cameron Mitchell
  55. Donny Moss
  56. Barry Mullineaux
  57. Hon. Paul Newell
  58. Denis O'Hare
  59. America Olivo Campbell
  60. Noah Pfefferbilt
  61. Josue Pierre
  62. Bob Pontarelli
  63. Billy Porter
  64. Hon. Keith Powers
  65. Randy Rainbow
  66. Hon. Jenifer Rajkumar
  67. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  68. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  69. Maer Roshan
  70. Toby Russo
  71. Bill Samuels
  72. James Sansum
  73. Scott Sartiano
  74. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  75. Lynn Schulman
  76. Frank Selvaggi
  77. Rev. Al Sharpton
  78. David Siffert
  79. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  80. Kathy Slawinski
  81. Tom Smith
  82. Anne Strahle
  83. Hon. Scott Stringer
  84. Wayne Sunday
  85. Hon. Bill Thompson
  86. JD Thompson
  87. Bjorn Thorstad
  88. Hon. Matt Titone
  89. Sam Underwood
  90. Jessica Walter
  91. Patricia Nell Warren
  92. Barry Weinberg
  93. Seth Weissman
  94. Hon. Jumaane Williams
  95. Emma Wolfe
  96. Hon. Keith Wright
  97. Zephyr Teachout