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Village Voice Media/City Pages sex ads under new fire

City Pages’ parent company, Village Voice Media, is taking heat — again for its classified ads pages. Way too many links to sex trafficking, say the cops in Nicole Norfleet’s Strib story: “In recent months, has become the focus of activists and authorities in the Twin Cities and nationwide who are demanding the closure of its adult-ad section. ‘It's absolutely unconscionable that they are making money off of the selling of girls. ... Men can get a girl delivered to their door for sex more quickly, they're reporting, than they can get a pizza delivered,’ said Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. ‘What does that say about our society?’ Village Voice Media, which own as well as several alternative weekly papers, including City Pages in the Twin Cities, says it has helped police rescue child sex-trafficking victims by responding to subpoenas and reporting content that could involve the exploitation of minors.” So you see, the jing they make off Backpage allows them to exercise a kind of civic largesse …

Congressman Keith Ellison is on record … Over the weekend, he talked with Talking Points Memo’s David Taintor: “Ellison (D-MN) told TPM on Saturday that he expects a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota will fail when voters head to the polls in November. ‘I believe that the right to marry someone who you please is so fundamental it should not be subject to popular approval anymore than we should vote on whether blacks should be allowed to sit in the front of the bus,’ Ellison said after a panel on voting rights at the Netroots Nation conference here. At the local level, Ellison said his campaign staff is working to defeat the amendment. ‘When we call, we don’t call and say, ‘Please vote for Keith.’ We say Keith is fighting to defeat the voter ID and the anti-marriage amendment. Will you support these efforts too?’ ”

Also from the weekend, the AP reports: “Members of Minnesota's clergy are increasingly taking sides on the push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, a political battle that's pitting certain denominations against others and, in some cases, splitting believers from the same faith. This Sunday, a group of Catholic churchgoers opposed to the amendment are kicking off the ‘Catholics Vote NO!’ campaign, flying in the face of the church's local hierarchy, which supports the measure. It's just the latest in a lengthy list of recent organizing efforts by the faithful — from a recent ‘pastor's summit’ of church leaders who support a ban to a gathering this past week of more than 100 Christian and Jewish ministers opposed to it. Among the latter was the Rev. Kelly Chatman, lead pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. He took take a public stand against the amendment, he said Friday, ‘because I don't want that other voice to be the only voice, I don't want same-sex people to see all churches that way. ‘I'm doing this because it's important people see a pastor who believes that God is loving to everybody.’ ” Have Catholic bishops made a point of inviting GOP amendment supporters up to the pulpit for a few pep sermons?

The Glean To paraphrase a recent high government official, some of Duluth’s children are learning enough. Jane Hollingsworth of the News Tribune writes: “The Duluth school district will save nearly $1 million by switching Lincoln Park and Ordean East middle schools to six-period days next school year, down from seven periods. … The Duluth School Board voted 5-0 on both measures in a special meeting Tuesday night. Members of the Duluth Federation of Teachers have also approved the middle school change, which was required for it to happen. The move to a six-period day — which the high schools already have — is meant to save about $900,000 through layoffs as the district works to cut $3.5 million from its budget. The decision means the district won’t have to increase class sizes as much as otherwise would have been necessary. Board members struggled with the decision, which means eliminating one eighth-grade elective course and providing less time for advising, after-school programs and teacher meetings to accommodate the bus schedule.

Last week, it was a big bust up in the Twin Ports. Now the smack story is out of St. Cloud. David Unze of the St. Cloud Times writes: “Heroin, which used to frighten off young people because of its stigma as a counter-culture drug that involved sharing needles, has made an aggressive comeback that has local investigators scrambling. There have been five overdoses resulting in two deaths in the last month and a half in the St. Cloud metro area, four deaths in Mille Lacs County, two more in Sherburne County since the first of the year and at least one each in Wright and Morrison counties since Jan. 1.
‘I think it’s the tip of the iceberg,’ [undercover investigator Brent] Fair said. ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but there will be, within a year, kids dying. And it will be high school kids, people still in school; the tragic story, the cheerleader or the captain of the football team. It’s only a matter of time.’ It’s why the commander of the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force in April called a Heroin Summit in St. Cloud ... Commander Jerry Edblad, a lieutenant in the St. Cloud Police Department, has been a police officer for 23 years and was astounded at what those around the table were telling him.” He doesn’t want “alarm” us?

Maybe Morrie should get naming rights to a few luxury skyboxes? David Kolpack of the AP writes: “Retiring state Rep. Morrie Lanning insists that his controversial and successful campaign to help finance a $975 million Minnesota Vikings stadium did not drive him from a 39-year career in public service. But his reputation as a diplomatic leader was never more tested. Lanning, R-Moorhead, was threatened by emails and phone calls, chastised on blogs and snubbed by members of both parties. … Next up for Lanning, besides spending time with his six grandchildren, could be a spot on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which will oversee construction of the stadium. Rybak and Dayton will name the five members. ‘I haven't been approached. Nothing is pre-arranged. But I've indicated [I] would be willing to consider that. I would like to hear more about what would be expected,’ Lanning said. ‘Stay tuned, I guess.’ ” Apparently the NFL and the Wilfs don’t hand out ambassadorships to productive foot soldiers.

You knw you want to support a true constitutional patriot. Catharine Richert of MPR says: “This election cycle, Rep. Michele Bachmann will use a special political fund to help Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate. All Republicans need are a net four seats to secure a majority in the Senate, Bachmann wrote in a fundraising e-mail for MICHELE PAC, a so-called leadership PAC that lawmakers set up to help fellow lawmakers or those running for office. … The e-mail doesn't specify which candidates Bachmann plans to help, but this year's MICHELE PAC campaign finance reports provide some clues. For instance, Bachmann's leadership fund has already contributed $2,000 to Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg's U.S. Senate campaign. Rehberg is challenging incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, a race that Real Clear Politics calls a toss-up. So far this year, MICHELE PAC has raised roughly $11,800 and spent more than $52,500. At the end of April, the fund had about $147,700 in cash on hand.” I assume she will kick in some from her own campaign surplus … ?

Those are good cupcakes … at Cupcake. Rick Nelson of the Strib reports: “Kevin VanDeraa of Cupcake won Food Network's "Cupcake Champions" and its $50,000 prize on Sunday night. At a viewing party in downtown Minneapolis, he said he will invest the winnings into his business, including plans to open new stores on Grand Avenue in St. Paul and at the Mall of America in Bloomington. He will be selling his cupcakes in the megamall's Rotunda on Saturday to celebrate his victory.”
In this case, “as long as it takes” was 47 years. The AP story says: “The remains of a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who had been missing in action in the Vietnam War are being returned to his family in Minnesota for burial. Lt. William Swanson, of Zimmerman, will be laid to rest Monday with military honors at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. Swanson was 27 years old when his A-1H Skyraider aircraft crashed during an armed reconnaissance mission over Khammouan Province, Laos, on April 11, 1965. … a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republican team discovered the crash site in 2000. It wasn't until 2010 that a recovery team finished excavation and recovered human remains.”

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Comments (9)

Missing the point on VVM ads

What the critics of the VVM Backpage ads NEVER acknowledge is that while some bad players use those ads (and in so doing create trails the police can use to bust them), VVM's Backpage and (formerly) Craigslist ads allow sex workers to operate without the aid of a pimp or madame. Just like medical marijuana clinics spare people in pain from having to find and negotiate with drug dealers.

When these forums are shut down, it forces the sex trade further underground which directly results in more violence and abuse to women.

The logical solution would be to legalize and tightly regulate the sex trade, but that would be a grownup solution and today's new Puritans get very childish when you talk about the real world in real ways.

The sex trade is never going away, and the more we prohibit it, the nastier it gets.

Legalize and regulate

is the common sense approach to the sex trade and drugs. Too bad common sense is such a rare commodity.

Journalistic tradegy

What an admirable story it would have been if City Pages' intrepid liberal reporters had had the courage to expose the sleaze in their own workplace. But then that might have endangered their livelihoods.

Pizza Delivery

"Men can get a girl delivered to their door for sex more quickly, they're reporting, than they can get a pizza delivered"

Ok, next time I order a pizza for delivery I won't ask for everything on it.

I'm usually pretty liberal but the first two comments here...

...kind of don't pass my "ick" test. I think calling these women "sex workers" as if it were a chosen profession gives the situation too much credit. Maybe in some ideal world where adults don't abuse and abandon their children, where poverty doesn't force one to act against their own sense of right and wrong, maybe in some Ron Paul dreamworld, legalizing the sex trade would make sense. I know the anecdotal evidence is that it seems to work in Denmark and Nevada but I have a hard time OKing something so sleezy. So as a "grown up" you'd be OK with your daughter chosing to be a prostitute? When that idea works for you as common sense then I will respect your opinion on this more, no offense. So you tell your daughter, "Honey, I know you like sex and your grades aren't too good and you do have a nice figure. Have you ever thought about the sex trade?" I don't think so.

As for legalizing drugs, something I have been for in some limited ways over the years, I remember my youth. We used to hang out at this pizza parlor and try to get the old guys to pick us up six packs across the street at the liquor store. I guess I wouldn't want my son to have the opportunity to try to talk some guy into running over to the drug store to pick up a little smack or crystal. I acknowledge that all things being equal alcohol is probably the more deadly drug, but it does have the small saving grace that people can have one with dinner or in a social setting without getting bombed. You could probably say much the same about pot but most other drugs are just there to get you stoned and making them hard to get is a good thing I think.

You're right

If you're not tightly regulating the sex industry you are winking at abuse, coercion, codependent and all manner of negative situations. If there was a legal, controlled option, it would make it much easier to isolate and diminish the worst aspects of the underground sex industry (child abuse, enslavement, drug dependency, mutilation and worse).

It's not going away, and saying it's illegal doesn't slow it down. It's a discussion our country should have.

World's oldest oppression

Fact check time.

•The average age of entry into commercial sex in this country is 12-14 years old (UNICEF)

•Minnesota is ranked one of the top 13 states in the nation for highest incidence in recruitment of minors (FBI). In 2010, the on-line sales of minor girls being sold in MN increased by 55% over a six month period (Schapiro Group Study)

•When asked, 89% of women and girls used in prostitution wanted to get out but didn’t know where to turn for help (Journal of Trauma Practice 2, 2003)

•80% of victims are female, of which 50% are children (Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves & US Dept of Justice)

Fact: When you pay for sex you are paying to sexually assault another human being. We can pretend it's consensual, but that's demonstrably not true.

Legalizing and regulating sexual assault will do little or nothing to reduce its occurance or protect those who are assaulted. It does protect those who want to sexually assault others without legal consequences, and it serves to legitimize acts of violence. Making it harder to buy acts of sexual assault online is an important strategy for reducing these assaults.

The people who fuel this industry (almost entirely men), and those who prostitute the victims, need to stop hurting others and be accountable for their actions.

(Statistics courtesy of Breaking Free Alliance:

Also all true

but again, the sex industry is going to be there whether you like it or not. The less you regulate and control it, the worse it gets.

Another side bar to this discussion is that while men are 99%+ of the perpetrators, they are also among the victims. We don't call prison rape prostitution, but that's what it often becomes. And there is clearly a side to the GLBT community that is less than flattering. Human beings are not at their best when it comes to our sexual proclivities.

Human behavior that we have never been historically able to suppress is human behavior that needs to be put under a spotlight. I can think of no better way of doing that than with regulation and mandatory inspections from doctors and psychologists.

And, fwiw, I have never paid for sex, but along time ago I did live with a prostitute (and no, I did not have sex with her or her friends). What I saw was very educational, especially the parts about how law enforcement interacts with sex industry workers or learning that a pimp can be a boyfriend, husband, drug dealer, lesbian, computer geek, etc. It would not be unfair to say that prostitutes are already being legally abused (and, of course, we have the local example of an anti-prostitution group that was run by a woman who was sexually preying on prostitutes).

More sunshine, please.

Backpage Flash Protests - please forward

Flash Pickets

In October 2011, Philip J. Cenedella of the National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates organized and pulled off the very first protest of Village Voice's backpage. When the "Editor-in-Chief" of the Village Voice, Tony Ortega, visited Cal State Fullerton, Cenedella and his troops were waiting for him, armed with picket signs and chants of "Stop Sex Trafficking!" Mr. Cenedella may also be the first to implement a new tactic called the "Flash Picket". Cenedella says he would like to see the whole month of June devoted to flash pickets occurring nationwide. We soon shall see.

Village Voice doesn't understand the damage they are causing with their prostitution ad business. They do understand the language of the almighty dollar.

In addition to full-blown street protests at Village Voice; phone calls, emails, Facebook posts and tweets to Village Voice's advertisers; we are piloting a new tool:

The "Flash Picket".

Grab your camera and some friends if they are around or go solo - Make a quick picket sign and head to the nearest company that advertises with Village Voice or
you could even do a flash picket at one of Village Voice's "alternative newspapers" listed below.

The advantage of the "flash picket" is instead of standing out in the hot sun for a couple of hours with a few hundred people seeing your picket sign, you can get your photo taken with your picket sign, put it on the net, show it to the world and send it to the company you are protesting. All with very little sweat. We would be happy to post your photos to We'll even make a webpage with space for photos from every state in the country, but certainly you can find many uses for your flash picket photos!

It would make quite a statement to accumulate photos of Flash Pickets from every state in the country! We'll keep you info'd on this progress.

1. Make the message on your sign very clear so everyone gets what you are trying to communicate.
2. Include the name of the advertiser or newspaper you are protesting; example: "Hooters supports Child Trafficking Ad Biz"
3. Make sure you, your picket sign and the sign of the company are all included in your shot.
4. Email the photo to the advertisers you are protesting, post it to your Facebook page, tweet it, post it on your websites so people know what you're up to these days, send it on over to the folks at and generally plaster the whole world wide web with it.
5. Have fun.

NEWSPAPERS to picket
Village Voice Media Holdings, LLC (Phoenix parent company) which owns the below "Alternative" Prostitution Ad Newspapers:
City Pages / Minneapolis
Houston Press / Houston
LA Weekly / Los Angeles
New Times / Broward
New Times / Miami
New Times / Phoenix (in same building as Village Voice Media Holdings)
Observer / Dallas (also headquarters to a Backpage call center!)
OC Weekly / Orange County
Riverfront Times / St. Louis
Seattle Weekly / Seattle
SF Weekly / San Francisco
Village Voice / New York
Westword / Denver

Village Voice Advertisers to picket
2929 Entertainment
American Apparel, Inc.
American Automobile Association
Angelika Film Center
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.
Arizona Diamondbacks
Atlantic Broadband
Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau
Bacardi USA, Inc.
Blick Art Materials
Blue Man Productions, Inc.
Brooklyn Museum
Buffalo Wild Wings
Cancer Fund of America, Inc.
Champs Sports
Charter Communications
Cirque du Soleil:
Clear Channel Communications, Inc.
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY - New York State Psychiatric Institute
CraftWorks Restaurants and Breweries, Inc.
Dave and Busters
Denver Botanic Gardens, Inc.
Diageo PLC
ESPN, Inc.
Focus Features (Moonrise Kingdom)
Foot Locker, Inc.
Goodwill Industries International, Inc.
Guitar Center
H.D. Buttercup
Hard Rock Café
Harrah's Resorts
Houston Symphony
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
JR Electronics
LA Philharmonic
Landmark Sunshine Cinema
Landmark Theatres
Lincoln Center Theater
Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation
Marriott International, Inc
Mayo Clinic
Mesa Arts Center
MGM Resorts International
Mike's Hard Lemonade Co.
Miller Light
Minnesota Orchestra
Minnesota Wild
MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - Mood and Personality Disorders Research Program Department of Psychiatry
New Belgium Brewing Company, Inc.
P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.
St. Louis Rams
The Bowery Presents
The Salvation Army
Total Bank
Toyota Motor Corporation
United Way Worldwide
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Denver
Veo optics
Walt Disney Pictures
Warner Brothers Entertainment
Whole Foods
YWCA of Minneapolis
YWCA Twin Cities