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Maria Ruiz Contributor January 18, As night fell on the city of Oakland, a tall blond wearing an orange print mini-dress with matching spike heels walked the corners of 50th Avenue and East 14th Street. I also try to avoid white males, they lean to be undercover police officers. She is one of at least a dozen women who can be frequently seen on the street in this area. Life is difficult. Barbie says she has been kicked out of several restaurants and is frequently verbally mistreated.
The woman said she believes she is contributing to the community as an active consumer and does not think her profession is interfering with business.
Yet, prostitution in Oakland is forcing a confrontation between business owners, police and prostitutes themselves. The Fruitvale District, located in East Oakland, is home to many businesses that have been there for years and whose owners claim to be drastically affected by the sex trade. Some business owners complain that prostitution is scaring clients away and they want police to get more involved; others say that it is better to acknowledge prostitutes and say that they are potential clients that are constantly contributing to their business.
The prostitutes say poverty forces them to walk the streets; they say they are frequently harassed by various business owners. The area is a main hub that connects all the avenues in Oakland and also links this city to its neighbor San Leandro.
Nevertheless, a number of business owners express little compassion for sex workers. They want them as far away from their business as possible. They scare my customers away. Antonio Vasquez, another owner of a Mexican restaurant, is also disturbed by prostitution and says a motel next door to his restaurant is a large part of the problem. They were going to shut it once but apparently the hotel paid a fine and managed to stay open. Song Won, 40, is a businessman who, in contrast to Vasquez and Espinoza, says sex workers are important clients to his business.