Approximately 25 New Haven residents and Yale affiliates gathered outside City Hall at 11 a.m. Friday to demand the decriminalization of sex work.
The protest was held in response to a sting operation conducted by the New Haven Police Department in October that resulted in the arrests of 13 women on charges of prostitution. The protesters distributed pamphlets which demanded that the NHPD cease investigations of sex workers, the Office of the State’s Attorney drop all pending charges and news outlets that published the photos of the arrested women remove the images. Protesters held signs including ones that read “No Bad Women, Only Bad Laws” and “End Police Terror.”
“No woman should ever have to hide in the shadows,” said Beatrice Codianni, the managing editor of Re-Entry Central, a criminal justice advocacy website.
She said sex workers are in danger of being assaulted and robbed but they feel they cannot go to law enforcement for help.
Codianni called on the crowd to demand that legislatures decriminalize sex work and told reporters that were present to tell their editors to take down images of the women and never publish such mug shots again. Publishing the photos of arrested sex workers hurts them, their families and their chances at future employment, according to Codianni.
At least eight police officers were present at the protest. Sergeant Eric Scott declined to comment on the protest, stating that the officers were “just [t]here to stand by.”
Brett Davidson ’16, executive director of the Connecticut Bail Fund, said the protest was not just about October’s sting. He said a culture of respect must be created in the police department and that harassment and intimidation of sex workers must end. Davidson said community organizers have been working on pamphlets with information on various resources to distribute on the streets of New Haven.
Codianni said organizers found several of the arrested women Thursday night while doing street outreach work.
Briam Timko, a New Haven resident and former sex worker who spoke at the event, said he was in the Army National Guard when he engaged in sex work because he was not making enough money and could not find another job.
“My body my rights, your body your rights,” he said.
D ‘Laney Gielow LAW ’18 said she attended the protest because she does not believe the criminal justice system has a place in rehabilitation. She said government funding should be used to connect people with voluntary social services rather than arresting them. She added that she believes sex work is real work.