Supporters hope the measure would make areas wracked by drug and prostitution tolerable for residents and business and inviting for tourists and commuters.
Banishment laws are ripe for legal challenge because they put police in the constitutionally shaky position of arresting someone for standing on the street or walking on the wrong sidewalk on the suspicion they might commit a crime. Local advocates for victims of human trafficking are taking a dim view of the Atlanta proposal, seeing it as a tool that could punish the vulnerable instead of help them.
On Monday, one activist asked: how would the ordinance be enforced? Another called it a “short-term Band-Aid solution.”
“Women in the sex trade, who are there by force or on their own, are marginalized and often at risk of violence,” Stephanie Davis, executive director of Georgia Women for a Change, said after the meeting. “The community has stigmatized them when they have little recourse or way out of the sex trade. I hope the City Council members who were present heard their cry for counseling and opportunities to get out of ‘the life.’”
City officials didn’t back down in a meeting that at times turned contentious. City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow of south-central Atlanta said the city has acquired the stain as a hotbed for sex trafficking and prostitution. Johns from as far away as Cobb County know that they can troll Metropolitan Parkway for women and even young girls, she said.