Sex workers marched through Amsterdam on Thursday to protest against plans to move them from the famed red light district to a huge “erotic centre” on the outskirts of the city.
Wearing masks to hide their identity and waving red umbrellas and banners including “Save the Red Light”, dozens of demonstrators walked to city hall where they confronted the mayor.
Amsterdam authorities say they want to move the sex workers to reduce crime and nuisance behaviour in the city, which this week launched a campaign to keep rowdy British tourists away.
“We really don’t agree with the solutions that they are offering, that they’re imposing. They’re not even negotiating with the sex workers’ organisations,” sex worker Sabrina Sanchez told AFP.
Sex workers were also protesting against plans for earlier closing times in the red light district, where the municipality in February also announced it was banning the smoking of cannabis.
“We don’t want to be moved, not to an erotic centre or anywhere else,” said another sex worker wearing a hood and sunglasses, who wished to remain anonymous.
“Do something about the drug traffickers, do something about those who behave disrespectfully,” she added, reading out a petition in front of mayor Femke Halsema.
The mayor has long opposed the centuries-old red light district, known as De Wallen, with its neon-lined windows in canalside houses where sex workers stand waiting for customers.
“You are not the cause, it’s a result of too much tourism, criminality and other problems,” Halsema said.
“But the situation in the city centre is becoming very problematic and we have to find a solution.”
Amsterdam city council has earmarked three possible sites for the erotic centre, which would have 100 rooms for sex workers along with spaces for breaks from work and other activities.
Residents near the red light district have long complained about the quality of life in the area, which draws huge crowds of tourists.
But the European Medicines Agency expressed outrage after it emerged one possible site for the erotic centre was near its headquarters, saying it could affect the safety of people working late at the office.
The agency, which approves Covid vaccines for the EU amongst other drugs, moved from London to Amsterdam after Brexit on the back of a major bidding war by the Dutch capital.
The latest step in Amsterdam’s efforts to transform its image as a party capital came on Tuesday when it launched a “stay away” campaign to discourage stag nights and boozy tourists.
The campaign caused a stir in Britain after the council said it would start by targeting young British men aged 18-35.
It involves showing video adverts to people who search for stag parties or pub crawls, featuring negative effects such as drunkenness and jail time.