Seattle City Council votes to repeal drug and prostitution loitering laws which have a “deep and harmful racist history” and are shown to have “a disproportionate impact on women of color, both cis- and transgender”.
Today Seattle City Council repealed drug and prostitution loitering laws that endangered SW safety, unjustly targeted non-violent peoples, and disproportionately impacted our most vulnerable communities.— SWOPSeattle (@SWOPSeattle) June 22, 2020
Today we celebrate.
This is a fantastic victory and credit must go firstly to the sex worker-led movement for decriminalisation and the local groups in particular who worked for years to achieve this change. Thanks and appreciation must also go to the global #BlackLivesMatter movement which mobilised after the death of George Floyd and which has shone a light on police racism, illegality, and murder.
As Emi Koyama so eloquently said:
We’ve been working on repealing prostitution & drug loitering laws for two years since the City’s own workgroup recommended it, but there was little movement. After five burned cop cars and one evacuated police precinct, the loitering laws are suddenly “outdated” and repealed.— emi koyama (@emikoyama) June 23, 2020
Mass movements bring clarity and strength, and in this case changed the terrain to the extent that a council member said: “The laws are so unjust they can’t even be called outdated. To do so implies that these ordinances had their purpose and had their day and new realities have made them irrelevant, Fax machines are outdated. These laws were never appropriate. They were wrong when they were enacted and they’re wrong now.”
Our sister organisation US PROStitutes Collective has been raising for decades that the US prostitution laws are implemented in a racist way. Black people make up 42% of all prostitution arrests (yet are 13.2% of the population). And for example, in New York City, “loitering for the purposes of prostitution” is a charge brought overwhelmingly against Black and Latinx women
In 1982, the ECP occupied the Church of the Holy Cross in King’s Cross, London for 12 days to protest police illegality and racism. Women of colour spelled out at the time that “the prostitution laws are to young Black women what the “sus” laws are to young Black men.”
Recent figures show that sus laws are still used in a racist way, with Black people eight times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by police in 2018/19.
For these laws to be abolished on the grounds of racism demolishes the opponents of decriminalisation who promote, in the name of fake “gender equality”, the criminalisation of clients. This is seen for what it is – a promotion of police powers, which would undoubtedly be used to target migrant / men of colour.