Today several dozen demonstrators protested and attempted to shut down an anti-prostitution conference organized by the Oakland Police Department and District Attorneys Office in conjunction with several nonprofit organizations. Protesters wearing brightly colored face coverings rallied in from of the conference, which described itself as a conference “against child trafficking” but in reality was a conference to develop strategies and increase funding for the policing and repression of sex workers.
Demonstrators, including many sex workers, gave speeches against the police, as well as the broader economic and political systems that forces people to exploit themselves and each other. Many pointed out that the police not only repress sex workers by arresting and imprisoning them, but create the conditions that allow prostitution and human trafficking to exist by upholding an unequal economic systems like capitalism, which force people to exploit each other, sexually and otherwise. Many also pointed out that for over a decade the specter of “child trafficking” has been used as an excuse to crack down on sex workers, resulting in the increased repression, exploitation, incarceration and deportation of sex workers, especially poor women of color. The speeches ended with a call for sex workers to build networks of solidarity and resistance that will allow them to defend themselves and each other and to resist the systems of exploitation that create and perpetuate prostitution and human trafficking.
After about 20 minutes of speeches, protesters rushed the doors of the conference, where they were met by a line of security guards who forced them out of the building. The group then proceeded to march to Oscar Grant Plaza (Frank Ogawa Plaza), where they dispersed.
Several participants mentioned that the real purpose of the conference was to further criminalize and incarcerate sex workers through the advancement of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Ballot Initiative, coming up in November, which will increase funding for the policing of sex workers while doing little to address the root causes of sexual exploitation. “Increased funding for police will not help solve the problem of human trafficking, especially when the police the prison industrial complex are profiting off the incarceration of sex workers,” said Adelaide Norris, a participant in the demonstration. “If we want to end human trafficking we must first dismantle our economic system, which forces people to exploit themselves and each other.”