SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Tucked inside the second floor of the Redstone Building on 16th Street, more than 60 Mission residents packed into a room resembling an improv theater for a discussion on decriminalizing prostitution in the Mission and across the city.
Over the course of the next two hours, a panel of four women and two men sought to convince the audience that sex work was like regular work, that criminalization was sexist, and that criminalizing prostitution would only further deteriorate conditions for both residents and the sex workers in the neighborhood.
“Once we began organizing and focusing on the problems of sex work, it opened us up to everything going wrong in the city,” said Nihar Bhatt, a member of the new group, Rad Mission Neighbors that organized the evening.
The audience, comprised of mostly 20 to 30-somethings all snapped their fingers and clapped in agreement. But one middle-aged man who said he lives off of Shotwell, where prostitution has been an ongoing problem for neighbors, disagreed.
“How many of the six people in the front actually live in the Red Light District in the Mission?” the man asked the audience referring to Shotwell and Capp streets.
No hands went up.