Hundreds of strip club workers and their supporters marched through the French Quarter Thursday night, protesting police raids on clubs that have left them out of work.
In the crowd was a petite strip dancer with long, platinum-blonde hair who uses stage name Taylor. She preferred not to give her full name to protect her safety. Normally Taylor strips for two clubs in the French Quarter. But since the raids, the clubs have had their liquor licenses suspended, effectively shutting them down. Police said they found evidence of prostitution, drug use and other illegal behavior, like inappropriate touching. Taylor says for the last two weeks, she's had to drive to Alabama to find work.
"Because if not, my kids wouldn't have food in their mouth, and I wouldn't have a roof over my head and I would have to drop out of school," she said.
The New Orleans Police Department and State Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control say the raids are part of a crackdown on human trafficking. In recent years, several women have reported being trafficked out of French Quarter strip clubs. But many club workers, like Taylor, feel police are putting attention in the wrong place.
"If you really wanted to solve this problem, you wouldn’t be looking in the strip clubs, you’d be looking in the streets. Because that's what you’re going to end up doing is pushing these women out of the club, out of their safe zones and pushing them into the streets to where they do get a pimp," she said.
Several clubs reached a settlement with the state that will allow them to reopen as early as this weekend. But there may be fewer strip clubs open heading into peak Mardi Gras season.