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Virginia congressmen denounce D.C. prostitution march

By KATHLEEN McHUGH

WASHINGTON -- Virginia congressmen expressed outrage Wednesday at the 'almost unbelievable' actions by police in Washington, D.C., who marched two dozen prostitutes from the capital's red-light district into Virginia before setting them free.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., took the floor of the Senate to call on Mayor Marion Barry and the police chief to 'immediately investigate' the incident, which he called an 'incredible, almost unbelievable episode in law enforcement.'

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Police cars with flashing lights were stationed at the front and rear of the unlikely 1.4-mile parade of 24 women in miniskirts and skimpy tops across the 14th Street Bridge to the Virginia line at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Most of the women caught cabs back to Washington and resumed plying their trade, according to The Washington Post.

The incident might have gone unpublicized had not a reporter and a photographer for The Post happened upon the leggy march. A picture of the parade appeared on the front page of Wednesday's newspaper.

Witnesses said no charges were placed against the women but police refused to confirm that information. D.C. police spokeswoman Shannon Cockett would only say the incident was being investigated.

Barry had no immediate comment.

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'They just went down and rounded up a bunch of prostitutes and herded them down the steet. If you're charged with criminal conduct, you should be arrested and tried ... that's how we do things around here,' said Rep. Stan Parris, R-Va. 'This is the most bizarre extradition process I've ever heard of.' 'They all had their shoes in their hands and were walking, literally in the middle of the streets,' said Parris, a frequent critic of the nation's capital and its policies. 'You don't walk Americans down the street in normal police activities. It's sort of a strange parade to have at 1:30 in the morning without a parade permit.'

One prostitute, who identified herself only as Toni, told The Post that police told the women they were taking them to Virginia and that they would go to jail if they stopped walking.

Warner called the march 'an indignity to the Commonwealth of Virginia.'

'My initial reaction when I learned of this was I didn't think it was for real,' said Arlington County (Va.) Police Chief William Stover. 'I thought I'd heard it all, but you never stop learning.'

Deputy D.C. Police Chief Edward Spurlock, commander of the city's 3rd district -- where the march began -- called Stover to apologize, Stover said.

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The AmericanCivil Liberties Union said the action appeared to be illegal.

The district's loitering law was declared unconstitutional in 1968 as a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Prostitutes are usually charged with disorderly conduct or soliciting for prostitution. 'I think this was either a lark or a kind of bizarre new approach to try to solve an old problem, or just a mistake or administrative nightmare,' said Parris. 'I do believe these ladies, 30 minutes later, were back on the same corner they left.'

Warner said: 'I hope Mayor Barry steps up, faces this one squarely and acts promptly and decisively.'

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