Help Stop Police Crackdown on Sex Workers in the Mission District, SF



Action Alert!  Action Alert!  Action Alert!   
Help Stop Police Crackdown on Sex Workers in the Mission District, SF

A police operation in the Mission district in San Francisco is targeting sex workers for arrest and harassment. The police are out there aggressively shining massive lights at people and pushing them to leave the neighborhood. This is displacing women into more isolated, unlit areas to avoid the police and consequently putting them more at risk of rape, other violence and even murder. Sex workers can’t report attacks to the police as they fear arrest. 

Women of color say they are particularly targeted for abuse. Sexist, racist, transphobic policing was the reason that the loitering for prostitution law was repealed in California last year. It led to the “harmful treatment of people for simply ‘appearing’ to be a sex worker.” This law came into effect on January 1, 2023, so are police persecuting women now out of spite?

The police crackdown came about after the Mission District’s Police Captain Gavin McEachern, Tony Flores from San Francisco’s Special Victims Unit, and the new District Attorney Brooke Jenkins met in October with a select number of Mission residents.  Jenkins announced a change in policy from former DA Chesa Boudin who has not been prosecuting crimes of poverty like prostitution. Instead, Jenkins said that charges would now be brought in sex work related offenses. It is claimed that the policy is aimed at sex workers’ clients but women are always targeted first and caused the most harm. 

Flores, the SF Special Victims Unit representative, was quoted boasting that he is “going to try and make it uncomfortable for those people that go out there… so, let the games begin.” Setting the police on vulnerable women described as a game! He should be censured for this. It is reminiscent of the “hunting down hookers” mindset, or when sex worker murders were referred to as NHI (no humans involved).

This crackdown targets others like homeless people, prohibiting them from sitting or lying on the sidewalk, and Black and Latino people in traffic stops. It is particularly vicious at a time of widening income inequality when the number of women, particularly mothers, going into prostitution is increasing because of rising poverty.

This crackdown must be opposed because:

  • It will undermine safety by pushing women into more isolated and dangerous areas where they will be at greater risk of attack. Even Flores acknowledged that “the activity may just shift to a different location.” 
  • It won’t help women leave sex work or reduce prostitution. The only way to do that is to address the poverty (particularly among single mothers), increased homelessness and hunger, sky-high rents and low wages in other jobs commonly done by women. Also, attacks on sex workers advertising online mean women are being forced to find work on the streets. 
  • The laws criminalizing sex work are disproportionately enforced against Black and other women of color
What you can do: Please write to and/or call District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to ask she publicly withdraw her support for this police crackdown and abandon prosecuting sex work related offenses. Urge her to enforce the repeal of the loitering law. districtattorney@sfgov.org 628 652-4000 See Sample Letter below.

Drafted by US PROStitutes Collective, Global Women’s Strike, Women of Color/GWS   www.uspros.net

Sample letter to District Attorney Brooke Jenkins

Dear District Attorney,

As a San Francisco resident, I am writing to register my strong opposition to the police crackdown on sex workers in the Mission District. Women will be pushed out to more isolated and dangerous areas, which will only put them at greater risk of rape, and other violence. 

I’m dismayed that you are ready to file sex work related charges if the police bring cases to you. Any increase in sex work activities on Capp and 20th must be because more women are struggling to survive and feed families at a time of economic crisis. It makes no sense to me to prosecute women who will be pushed back out onto the street to get the money to pay fines. 

Surely city resources could be better spent on tackling poverty, homelessness, debt, domestic violence and other factors that drive women, particularly single mothers, into prostitution. Criminal records prevent women from leaving prostitution and getting other jobs.

I’m also concerned about the impact of this stepped-up enforcement on communities of color. Figures show that enforcement of prostitution laws disproportionately target Black and other women of color. Sexist, racist, transphobic policing was the reason the loitering for prostitution law was recently repealed in California

I’m also concerned about the impact of this stepped-up enforcement on communities of color. Figures show that enforcement of prostitution laws disproportionately target Black and other women of color. Sexist, racist, transphobic policing was the reason the loitering for prostitution law was recently repealed in California

Also concerning to me is how this crackdown is targeting other vulnerable people including prohibiting those who are homeless from sitting or lying on the sidewalk, and targeting Black and Latino people in traffic stops. 

I urge you to reconsider your position and explore alternatives to criminalizing people who are just trying to make a living. This criminalization causes devastating and lasting harm. 

Sincerely,

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