San Francisco

Viral video renews concerns about sex workers in San Francisco

Residents are fed up with what they say is a lack of attention from city leaders.

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A new social media video of a woman being beaten on Shotwell Street in San Francisco’s Mission District is renewing an old concern from some neighbors there.

They've complained that sex worker traffic has moved to their narrow street after traffic on a nearby street was blocked over similar concerns.  

Residents are fed up with what they say is a lack of attention from city leaders.

In the video, a woman is seen sitting on the sidewalk with another woman on top of her while yet another watches.

There's clearly a struggle and some shouting, then one of the women stands up, and unleashes one more brutal kick.

The person who shot the video said she decided to begin recording after hearing an argument in the street.

"I heard screaming, yelling, loud yelling, ‘you b----, you f------ b----’ I got up and went to the window and saw three girls fighting,” said the witness, who didn’t want to be identified. 

She says there have been threats to neighbors after some led a protest earlier this year over recent changes they've seen in their neighborhood.

Some residents on Shotwell Street have been complaining for months now over what they say is an increase on nighttime traffic, after Capp Street was closed down over concerns from residents there about illegal sex work.

In a phone conversation with NBC Bay Area, the woman being attacked in the video, said she was taking a nap in her van when the two women started looking into her window to fix their makeup.

When she confronted them after they tried opening a door, she said they pounced on her. After the attack, the victim says a man, who she believes to be their pimp, began harassing her.

San Francisco arrested a 24-year-old woman and charged her with aggravated assault.

For neighbors, the attack is part of the overall problem they've been seeing.  

"It signals a total disregard of the law enforcement that now they're operating with impunity,” said Ayman Farahat, a Shotwell resident. “They have absolutely no concerns of law enforcement, and it's not just the sex workers."

"We have a Central Mission Neighborhood Organization, we're fighting, we've spent a lot of time organizing. And, what we hear is, ‘we don't have enough staff, we don't have enough’ this isn't a priority. Prostitution is not a priority,” said the woman who recorded the video.

But not every resident on Shotwell Street is concerned. Richard Bollingbroke is an artist and resident who's lived there for more than 25 years.

He said sex workers have been there for decades.

"It's never going to change. They have to go somewhere. This is a nice street. The pimps keep them quiet,” said Bollingbroke. “They keep the drugs and the burglars away. I don't have a problem with it."

But several of his neighbors say they've had enough. They're planning to file a lawsuit against the city over what they say is a lack of enforcement here.

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