Yesterday’s rally in Chicago was an amazing success. Around a dozen sex workers and allies converged on the office building housing the Swedish consulate. The building on Michigan Avenue, one of Chicago’s most heavily trafficked streets, provided a great opportunity to spread our message.
Signs displayed included “Sex Work Is Real Work” “End Demand Endangers Sex Workers” “Sex Worker Rights = Labor Rights = Trans Rights = HUMAN RIGHTS” and “#JusticeForJasmine #JusticeForDora #StigmaKills.” Folks distributed fliers and pamphlets with resources for sex workers to one another and to passers-by, statements were read from Sweden and Turkey, and there was a fierce soapbox about other instances of violence against sex workers in the United States. New networks and friendships were forged — at least, before the police (who had been harassing a group of street performers nearby already) and building security decided half an hour was too long to let a small group peacefully holding signs stand on the sidewalk.
Considering so many people were out of town for the Desiree Alliance conference, the turnout exceeded our expectations for something organized in literally two days, on a Friday evening in the middle of a heatwave no less! And a huge thank you for all the strong social media support, online solidarity, and people spreading the word through our networks and communities. Dozens and dozens of people told us they couldn’t make it but were enormously grateful we were out there. We also hear that the actions in the other 35+ cities across four continents went well. Chicago organizers received messages of support and gratitude from people across the U.S. and several other countries. Clearly, our actions resonated far beyond those of us able to physically attend a last-minute rally.
Although nothing can bring back Jasmine, Dora, or the thousands of other sex workers and people profiled as sex workers who have lost their lives across the world, we at least succeeded in showing that the very same policies that create situations which make sex workers’ lives disposable in places like Sweden and Turkey exist here in Illinois too. Perhaps most importantly, we showed there is dissent to the growing popularity of the “End Demand” (or “Swedish model“) strategy here in Chicago.
Jasmine, Dora, all of the other sex workers and transgender women who have lost their lives (many whose names we will never know), and to their friends, families, and communities: You will not be forgotten. And to all of us who live in fear that something like this could happen to us or the people we care about: We know real protection doesn’t come from criminalizing what we do to survive, it comes from building community and fighting for change. Hopefully, we can use this energy moving forward to keep pushing for a world in which tragedies like this never occur — FULL DECRIMINALIZATION and HUMAN RIGHTS for sex workers and our clients, friends, and communities! Next time we gather, we hope it is not just to react to and commemorate yet another loss, but to work together for true justice.
In the meantime, please continue to use, adapt, or distribute the information in our statement on why bringing “End Demand” to Illinois is a bad idea. The struggle is clearly not over — groups like “End Demand Illinois” have the support of many powerful people and wealthy institutions. But, as we showed yesterday, sex workers have a voice too and we will continue to make sure our truths are heard!