LIFT was set up as the Tower Hamlets Residents Solidarity Campaign by a group of Tower Hamlets residents in March 2012 in support of women involved in street-based prostitution in the borough, who were being increasingly targeted in the lead-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

Since the beginning of 2012, the police in Tower Hamlets had been targeting women involved in street-based prostitution with arrests, displacement and threats of ASBOs in an effort to ‘clean up’ the streets for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the first 3 months of 2012, the number of arrests had increased exponentially on the number of arrests throughout 2011. We were told that this is on the basis of residents’ complaints, so as residents, we felt it was important to speak out.

A year later, women who sell sex are still being arrested disproportionately to men who buy it and other residents are still living with the impact of prostitution in their areas. The old approach isn’t working, and we want a new solution for Tower Hamlets.