Civil Rights

Ocean State Advocacy: Arrest is never the answer to human trafficking

“Spa raids and arrests are never about ‘provid[ing] various resources that will help them escape the situation that was imposed on them’… and are very much about using whatever means possible to surveil, detain, and exploit spa workers,” says Ocean State Advocacy in a Statement. “Spa workers involved in sex work and spa workers not involved in sex work deserve safe working conditions free from the threat of arrest or detainment.”
Photo for Ocean State Advocacy: Arrest is never the answer to human trafficking

Published on June 24, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The narrative on the Cranston Police spa raids has been one of criminal activity, including prostitution, and Asian women rescued from human trafficking. During a month long investigation, said Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist, “detectives uncovered what they believe to be evidence of labor trafficking as well as prostitution, adding that the “United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations continues to assist with the joint investigation.” Homeland Security, it should be noted, directly overseas ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, possibly placing some of the women “rescued” in danger of deportation.

“We are also sensitive to the fact that many individuals are often forced to engage in prostitution and to live in squalled living conditions out of fear,” continued Chief Winquist. “We are actively assisting many of the persons encountered during yesterday’s operation with various resources that will help them escape the situation that was imposed on them.”

UpriseRI reached out to O$AOcean State Advocacy – “a constantly growing community based organization of current & former sex workers” for a different perspective. O$A describes themselves as “an anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-whorephobic organization accepting of all backgrounds & experiences within sex work.”

“Arrest is never the answer to human trafficking,” said O$A in a statement. “O$A stands with those impacted by this week’s 11 arrests at local spas and denounces the increasing surveillance and punishment of migrant workers in Rhode Island working within informal economies.

“Spa raids and arrests are never about ‘provid[ing] various resources that will help them escape the situation that was imposed on them’ (from Cranston Police Chief) and are very much about using whatever means possible to surveil, detain, and exploit spa workers. Spa workers involved in sex work and spa workers not involved in sex work deserve safe working conditions free from the threat of arrest or detainment.

“We see the carceral system as an extension of white supremacy and as we see mounting violence against Asian and Asian American communities throughout the United States, we urge Rhode Islanders to stand in solidarity with local spa workers. We advocate for migrant workers’ voices to be centered on what their needs are and will be updating when we hear directly from those impacted by this week’s arrests.”

What’s the story behind O$A?

“In the Spring of 2020, after seeing the incredible efforts of sex working communities supporting each other in the pandemic a few of us got together & decided to start our own mutual aid fund for Rhode Island based sex workers.”

“In 2020, we redistributed over $24,000 to 54 sex workers in RI. Some recipients of the stipend cited needing assistance with groceries, rent, healthcare, childcare, housing, & much more.”

What does O$A do?

“We see mutual aid as an act of political solidarity. We hope to alleviate some stressors that unjustly affect sex workers; including & uplifting BIPOC & trans sex workers. We aim to build up networks of support.”

O$A’s Work includes:

  • Mutual Aid Fund (Ocean State Ass)
  • Peer Support Group
  • Harm redux work
  • Support with Access to Healthcare
  • Supporting street based & houseless sex workers in accessing basic needs & resources
  • Responding to the needs of Sex Workers
  • Advocating for the full decriminalization of Sex Work
  • Speaking out on the intersections of sex work with police violence, immigration, access to housing, & other resources.

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