Dozens of sex workers marched through the streets of downtown Washington yesterday, demanding better treatment from law enforcement officials of prostitutes who become crime victims.
Clutching red umbrellas and carrying signs that read, “Sex Work Is Real Work” and “Stop Shaming Us to Death,” the men and women came from San Francisco, New York and other cities across the country to publicize a rarely discussed issue that they say is not taken seriously.
The rally and march was organized by the Sex Workers Outreach Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, and coincided with today’s fifth anniversary of the sentencing of Gary Leon Ridgway, a Seattle man known as the “Green River Killer” who was convicted of murdering 48 prostitutes in 21 years. The lowly status of prostitutes in society, rally participants said yesterday, explains why the crimes went unsolved for so long.
“I’m just so tired of hearing, ‘If I choose to do X, then I put myself on the line,’ ” said Charmus, 34, a transgender woman who gave only her first name. She lives in Maryland and said she has worked as a prostitute. “Transgender women, prostitutes, you have a right to fight for due process,” she said to the crowd assembled at a downtown park.
As professional workers filed out of buildings in suits and ties on their way to business lunches, the rally crowd marched from Franklin Square at 14th and I streets NW to the Justice Department in the 900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Along the way, the marchers encountered some bemused looks at signs reading, “Be Nice to Sex Workers.”
A 33-year-old man from New York City who gave his name as Wally said he works as an escort in Manhattan. He has been fortunate not to be a crime victim, he said, but he made the trip to show solidarity.