On November 18th, the Warren Police Department raided two massage spas in the city of Warren, resulting in the arrests of six Asian American women on multiple prostitution-related charges. All six women have been held on bail from $15,000-$50,000, placed on GPS tether, and all of their documents have been confiscated. In our capacity, Detroit Will Breathe, Rising Voices, and ANSWER Detroit have come together to condemn these arrests and charges.
Since the Atlanta-area massage spa shootings earlier this year, law enforcement has used the tragedy to justify more policing and surveillance on Asian massage and spa businesses. We see this for what it is: an excuse to further target and harass migrants and sex workers.
Stigma against sex work, anti-Asian racism, and anti-immigration sentiments are the real reasons these raids occur. Sgt. Craig Bankowski of the Warren Police Department reinforced these narratives when he told the media that the women’s documents may not be legitimate, and said that they are investigating if the women arrested are “sex trafficked” or “victims,” attempting to paint this as a “raid and rescue” operation. This type of response serves to create a biased public narrative, further traumatize spa workers, and put them at increased risk.
The Warren PD’s press release is a social condemnation of these women, who have not yet received due process, or a platform to share their own narrative, and is an exercise in self-aggrandizement that does nothing to serve or protect the Warren community. The media has failed to question the unsubstantiated assumptions upon which the Warren PD have relied, and their decision to amplify the press release perpetuates the sexist and xenophobic narratives that endanger and destabilize Asian American, migrant, and sex worker communities.
Police are not social workers; police presence brings militarism, harm, and violence to situations that should be handled through harm reduction approaches and community care measures. This can be especially true in diasporic communities where there is intergenerational trauma from U.S. militarism abroad. Police resources should be reappropriated to services that migrant communities and sex workers demand to create better, safer living and working conditions.
The police surveilling and arresting these women is a clear example of how criminalizing sex work endangers migrant communities and further demonstrates why the decriminalization of sex work is key in the fight for migrant rights and the freedom of movement and choice for all people and workers.
We demand that all charges against all six women arrested in the Warren massage spa raids be dropped immediately.
We also demand 1) the decriminalization and destigmatization of sex work, 2) an end to policing and surveillance of BIPOC, migrant, and sex worker communities, 3) the reallocation of police resources to services that benefit and are sought by migrant communities and sex workers, 4) safe working conditions and the right to unionize regardless of immigration status, 5) an end to police press releases concerning arrests and 6) media coverage that is accountable to the communities it’s covering.
Detroit Will Breathe
Rising Voices, a project of Tides Advocacy
Organizations can sign on in support at bit.ly/WarrenStatement