The Department of Homeland Security and the New York City Police Department raided the Manhattan headquarters of the male escort site Rentboy.com. The authorities characterize the website as an “internet brothel” that has been promoting illegal prostitution since the mid 1990s. Seven were arrested in the raid including CEO Jeffrey Davids.
Protesters outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn argue that the removal of the site will only cause sex workers to be more at risk, and they’re demanding that the charges against Davids and his employees be dropped. The raid came just days after several large LGBT advocacy groups, such as GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders) and the Transgender Law Center, announced that they would be working with Amnesty International to fight for the decriminalization of sex workers to protect them from abuse, arrest, and sex trafficking.
The Transgender Law Center stated, “the US federal government is not only jeopardizing countless people’s lives and only source of livelihood, but sending a clear and troubling message that the country is less invested in addressing systemic issues of racial, economic, and anti-LGBT injustice than in further criminalizing the individuals most marginalized by those systems.”
Michael Belman, one of the arrested Rentboy employees, was released on a $200,000 bond and said, “Escorts are not just sex objects. They are real people performing a valuable service.”