Mounted Squad out
to move hookers

Thursday, March 7, 1997

Today was an absolutely fabulous day! Raigen picked me up and we drove out to East Vancouver. We drove around and around the school yards but we couldn't find the cops on horses. We eventually found the horse trailer and Raigen remarked, "That thing is nicer than what some people's homes are around here." She pulled up into a no parking zone, right behind Sir William Macdonald Elementary, You can't park here I exclaimed. "Stalking a reporter with a video camera." She parked, got out of the car and asked, "Have you seen the horse?" Not sure he knew what she meant, she explained, "Not the whores, the horses?" He said, "yes," and asked, "Why are you looking for them?" Raigen replied, "We're from the Street Workers Alliance of Vancouver; me and my friend are here to put up some stickers and to take some pictures for our website. Do you know where the horses are now?" He told her that they were here earlier, but they've moved on. They encountered one girl, but it was non-confrontational and she moved.

Raigen did an interview and showed him some of our stickers. We made the six o'clock and 11 o'clock news on CBC Broadcast One! "It's like we're back in the 1800s. Gonna go out and round us up some hos — lassoo 'em", she said. "Might as well have the pancake breakfast and everything!" Raigen said that she does support a "bubble" area around schools. But six blocks — come on! Maybe more like two blocks. It wasn't long before a large gaggle of kids had gathered, wanting to be on TV. The reporter told them their parents would be upset if they were in the same newscast. One little girl kept saying, "You're making our school look bad." It struck me that part of what was happening with all the attention from the media and the residents, was that they were teaching these kids to blame and hate prostitutes for the problems in the neighbourhood.

We drove along and eventually spotted two police officers on horses. They were talking with a radio reporter from Burnaby. Raigen parked the car and got out while I took pictures. She asked, "Would you like some stickers?" and told them that, "Me and my friend are taking pictures of you to put up on our website."

Raigen struck up a converstation with the officer and and told him that she was raised in a law-abiding home, that she didn't abuse alcohol or drugs when she started working as a ho, but that changed after her experience of abuse at the hands of the morality squad ("everyone knew Porky and…"). They would beat the girls up; she described a couple of instances. This was in northern Alberta, where she grew up. After she lost her respect for the justice system, she started abusing alcohol and drugs. She was an alcoholic. Then she went clean and sober; she got a straight job. But coming home from work, she would feel like she needed a fix so bad. So she went back to hooking. She's been clean and sober for five years now. The officer was impressed. Raigen said "I thought this was going to be a like, 'Let's round up some hos' — like we're back in the 1800s."

The officer talked a bit about the horse unit, and how they have been being squeezed by budget cuts (down from five officers to three?). And he talked about how important and useful he felt the mounted squad was.

"One horse can accomplish what it takes ten foot patrol officers to do." People come up and talk to him all the time because of the horse. "Would you have come up and talked to me if I were in a car?"

Raigen replied, "Yeah, I'll talk to anybody."

The two talked for quite a while and got along well. I sure had a much worse view of cops from my experiences in Toronto. One of the most ominous visions was of walls of cops on horses, batons in hand, closing in on what was called a riot.

The officer told us his personal view was — and stated emphatically that he didn't mean it was the view of the Vancouver Police Department — that prostitution should be legalized, with a red light district or something.

"When you've been out here for a while, you've seen a few things. If someone's gotta work, then they gotta work. Mike and I don't have anything against hookers. But you can't just go plying your trade anywhere. There have been citizen complaints."

While Raigen and the officer were talking, several people had come along and now a couple of people were waiting to pet the horse. Raigen talked to the reporter from a Burnaby radio station, who had been following along, recording the "clip clop" of the horse.

The officer told a passing child that the horse's name was "Justice, funnily enough." and gave the child a card — like a trading card — with a picture of him riding Justice. Justice is a beautiful, reddy-bay riding horse. Elegant almost, not quite the build of a riot horse.

As we were getting ready to leave he asked if he could have one of our pamphlets. "Stickers;" Raigen replied, "you can put them up in your locker." I handed her some, with some business cards, through the passenger window. He'd said no to them earlier because he thought they were going to be something negative. But now that he had talked to us, he thought he'd like a copy. Then he asked, "If those pictures turn out all right, can you send me one?" "Sure; to who?" I asked. "Just send it to the mounted squad, care of the Vancouver Police Department."

A couple of weeks ago I was surprised by a Vancouver police officer whose attitudes seemed reasoned, reasonable, friendly and fair. As Raigen says, "It's time they started treating us like we're part of the solution instead of always like the problem. This was the second time I've felt like the officer agreed. In situations where people need a way to make a living, sex work is part of the solution, not the problem.

Raigen and I finally drove off to her office, where she pulled some sewing work together. I sorted the stickers into sets of eight of each type so that I could so that I was rotating them as I put them up along my route. Then we drove off to the Burger King drive-thru and had double whoppers with cheese, large fries and a coke.

After lunch, I trundled through the drizzle along East Hastings Street almost to Clark and back up the other side, stickering as I went. The best surfaces seemed to be acrylics and plexiglass, and the backs of traffic signs that weren't wet because of the slant of the rain. I tried to refrain from doing the fronts of the signs, so as not to appear to be defacing or impairing public safety signs. I got phone booths and bus stops too. I put them up high, both to keep them out of view of little kids and so people would have a hard time getting them down. And I gave a bunch away. You can read them from quite a distance!

— Andrew Sorfleet


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Created: March 23, 1997
Last modified: April 10, 2001
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710