Friday, June 29, 2007

Oxford Street a casualty of the ‘War on Kings Cross’?

A claimed rise in homophobic assaults along Oxford Street has triggered a safety strategy from Council.

At the same time a story by Kim Shaw in the Wentworth Courier (27/6/2007) reports:
‘Locals had complained to the council that the demographic of Oxford Street had changed, bringing in more “straight outer-suburbs” visitors to the area in recent times.’

Is it possible that the police raids and pressure on adult shops in Kings Cross, preventing them from selling X-rated non-violent erotica, are displacing “straight outer-suburbs visitors” to the nearest sex shops -- in Oxford Street?

There was plenty of anecdotal evidence of the displacement of street people and drug users from the Cross to Darlinghurst a few years ago when Police and Council started their ongoing ‘clean up the Cross’ campaign.

Indeed, if you spend much time in both places you will see many of the same street people.

This observation challenges the vocal few who continue to attack the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, claiming it attracts people who are the sole cause of the retail slump along the Kings Cross strip -- a chicken-and-egg argument at best. The truth is there are many reasons street people come to the area and shifting the MSIC, or closing it, will not improve anything.

It also illustrates the idea that any oppressive action by authorities merely displaces the ‘problem’ rather than solving it.

In the case of Kings Cross, all the might of the Police, Council, NIMBY residents and the sycophantic Kings Cross Partnership is pitched against the whole set of social forces that creates red light districts in the first place.

The only achievement of this ‘War on Kings Cross’ is to create an uneasy stalemate. On the one hand the Cross is prevented from fully being 'itself' -- the raucous, lurid neon-lit home of extreme diversity that we so love. But on the other hand the strength of the social forces which create the Cross will prevent it ever becoming the ‘mother-and-child retail centre’ that the KX Partnership, Council and property developers explicitly fantasise about.

Like all such prohibition-style campaigns, the only result is a lot of pain and expense as ‘problems’ are shifted from one place to another. Seen in this light, Council and the Police are creating the very problems they are trying to solve.

Picture: Oxford Street or Kings Cross? Street people in front of a closed shop in Oxford Street doing nobody any harm.

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