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Amsterdammers tell City officials what they think about Red Light District cleanup efforts

DutchAmsterdam.nl — “Mister van Rossum has said that the Singel area is a criminal neighborhood. I take great offense at that. I would love to punch him in the mouth, but my wife won’t let me do that.”

Applaus followed this statement by a smartly-dressed, elderly man who calmly explained his feelings regarding statements made by Pierre van Rossum, a highly-place civil servant of the City of Amsterdam who is closely involved with clean-up plans for the Red Light District and surrounding areas.

Project 1012

Well-known graffiti artist makes his feelings about Project 1012 known
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According to local daily Het Parool this was the only moment during the participation discussion meeting about Project 1012 that caused Mayor Job Cohen to intervene: “Take that back,” he said. “You are talking to a civil servant. If you want to punch someone in the mouth you’ll want the administrators.”

The man was willing to agree, under one condition: the civil servant would first have to apologize. Van Rossum refused, and Els Iping, chairperson for the Centre borough then suggested that his statements had been misinterpreted.

About 200 people showed up, thirty of whom actually spoke up about Project 1012 — the city’s clean-up plans, named for the postal code of the downtown district. Most of them complain about the plans to half the number of prostitution windows and coffeeshop in the Red Light district.

Yet others urge Cohen and alderman Lodewijk Asscher to keep pursueing their original plans. They are upset that the city suddenly decided not to complete ban all prostitution for the Singel area.

They can’t understand why now, all of a sudden, prostitution in this case is referred to as “social sex,” free of human trafficking and other abuses the city claims are taking place in the main Red Light District.

Among the crowd, most of the entrepreneurs, coffeeshop owners and landlords agitate against what they see as stigmatization on the part of the City. They are angry about the Project 1012 premise that the Red Light District is dominated by ‘criminogeen‘ enterprises. Criminogeen means ‘promotion or advancement of — or susceptibility to — criminality.’

Mariska Majoor, of the Prostitute Information Center, an advocacy agency for prostitutes, says she initially thought that plans for clean strets and nice shops were good — until she realized what them meant. “Where would the prostitutes go? They can only go underground.”

Mayor Cohen again explains the notion behind Project 1012: The number of brothels and coffeeshops were out of control and could no longer be held in check. Reduction is that the only solution.

Meanwhile many Amsterdammers are afraid that the characteristic ‘look and feel’ of the Red Light District is deliberately being damaged by what they see as the City’s attempt to gentrify the area.

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This post was last updated: Apr. 25, 2014