Call For Solidarity in the Wake of Homeland Security Raid and Arrests at RentBoy

In the weeks since the raid of RentBoy in August 2015 we have worked to show solidarity with those arrested while raising awareness about the broader issues of how sex workers and people in the sex trade are policed and how law enforcement works systematically to target people of color, immigrants, LGBTIQ and other communities. Please join our call for solidarity by sending an email to and stay tuned for forthcoming events and actions about the issue.

Call For Solidarity in the Wake of Homeland Security Raid and Arrests at RentBoy: Human Rights for Sex Workers and all People Targeted by Policing and Surveillance

We the undersigned condemn Homeland Security’s raid and arrests at the Rentboy office in New York and demand immediate dismissal of criminal charges against the Rentboy staff. We offer up a unifying call to work together to increase awareness of the long history of human rights organizing by sex workers and by others who face homophobic, transphobic, and racist policing. This raid causes us to recall the history of policing of sexuality by unconstitutional laws against “sodomy” and “crimes against nature.”  We also place this latest raid in a broader context of actions carried out by a richly resourced police and surveillance apparatus that profiles, imprisons, tortures and kills migrants, Muslims, people of color, people with no and low incomes, people with disabilities, dissidents, and LGBTIQ people.

Many are now calling for “decriminalization of sex work.” We are aware that some forms of “decriminalization” can actually leave many communities even more vulnerable to police abuse and arrest. Law enforcement will target any communities perceived to be “left out” of law reform efforts with greater force as policing resources are refocused in the wake of reform. We therefore commit to fighting for solutions that account for all the ways that people are vulnerable to policing and imprisonment. Demands must come from those most directly impacted by stigma, policing and prisons; including sex workers and people in sex trades, people of color, migrants, people living with HIV/AIDS, and LGBTIQ communities, particularly transgender women of color.

We support progressive changes to all the laws and policies that are used to oppress sex workers and people profiled as sex workers. This means that we demand that change be sufficient to, for example, protect queer youth of color who are discriminatorily targeted for “stop and frisk” by police, abused, and arrested for sex work, or for “loitering” or other “quality of life” offenses. If migrant sex workers or migrants profiled as sex workers can still be locked up in ICE detention facilities, or denied basic necessities because of border imperialism, any decriminalization campaign will be far from complete. If transgender women of color can be profiled as sex workers just for walking down the street and arrested, our struggle for justice is unfinished.

Sex workers and people in the sex trades throughout the country have a long history of organizing against the many forms of abuse they face as a result of stigma and criminalization. For years, they have worked to draw attention to the fact that police rape, assault, harass, and extort sex workers and those presumed to be sex workers, with impunity. They have shared their stories of being denied justice for rape or other violence committed against them, all because of their sex worker status. They have decried the harmful effects of arrest and imprisonment, which include denial of housing, education and other benefits, not to mention violence they endure while detained.

Federal, state and local governments continue to heap resources onto these same abusive police and justice systems. Today, arrests, discrimination and abuse are often endorsed by funds distributed to law enforcement in the name of “fighting trafficking.” Indeed, the federal government’s model state legislation on addressing trafficking calls for jail sentences for sex workers. We know that this approach to potential coercion in any labor sector does not help people secure their human rights, and that the inaccurate conflation of all sex work with trafficking denies sex workers the room to organize for better conditions.

We reject “solutions” that do nothing more than increase resources for the same police forces that abuse our communities. We also reject the notion that sex workers are either “victims or whores” who must be jailed—a flawed paradigm that has justified sex workers’ continued exclusion from debates and decision-making that directly impact their lives. It is sex workers and people in the sex trades themselves who must have the right to determine the extent and nature of state intervention that they may want in their lives, rather than having such interventions imposed on them by people who view them in this limited paradigm.
We commit to working in broad alliance for the human rights of sex workers and people in the sex trades, with special attention to lifting up and supporting the voices and leadership of those communities most directly impacted by stigma and criminalization.


Best Practices Policy Project

New Jersey Red Umbrella Alliance

BAYSWAN (Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network)

Desiree Alliance

Project SAFE, Philadelphia

SWOP Tampa Bay

SWOP Orlando

Please email to add your name to this list and to work in the solidarity in the months to come as the RentBoy case proceeds.