Sex worker activist Monica Jones was found guilty last week of “manifestation of an intent to prostitute” by an Arizona judge.
The “manifesting prostitution” law allows police to arrest people for doing things that make them suspect they are sex workers, such as flagging down cars, engaging passersby in conversation, or asking people if they’re cops. Of course, since none of those behaviors are hard proof of being a sex worker, the law basically lets police make arrests based on their own assumptions, as Jones explains in the video below.
Trans women of color, like Jones, are often profiled as sex workers just for going about their business. As one trans woman explained in an Amnesty International report, ”No tenemos el derecho a vivir.” — “We don’t have the right to live.” Jones has been harassed by police four times since her initial arrest, while “walking to the grocery store, to the local bar, or visiting with a friend on the sidewalk.” Reeeeeeeal suspicious.
In addition to committing the crime of “walking while trans,” Jones believes she was targeted because she’s been protesting an anti-prostitution program the Phoenix Police Department helps run. Project ROSE aims to help sex workers by offering an alternative to incarceration — but, in practice, it works by rounding up sex workers through street sweeps and online stings and sending many of them to jail “after they don’t qualify for the program or ‘fail’ out of it.” Jones explains.
The ACLU of Arizona, which helped Jones with her case, argues that the manifestation law unconstitutionally restricts free speech and allows people to be arrested based on their appearance. We’re standing with Jones as she appeals this verdict and continues to fight this unjust, discriminatory law.
Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.