NORTHERN CALIFORNIA—As an anti-imperialist, transnational feminist organization, AF3IRM condemns the predatory actions and systemic oppression perpetuated by the Oakland Police Department (OPD). Allegedly committed to combatting the sex trade and entrusted to serve victims of gender violence, the Oakland Police Department has instead given badges, weapons, institutional power, and impunity to abusers, traffickers and johns. Officers who are valorized under the guise of “protecting the community” have repeatedly shown themselves to be the very predators who endanger our existence. Specifically, AF3IRM denounces the OPD’s perpetuation of sexual abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and rape of Celeste Guap. We also unequivocally condemn OPD’s corruption and potential cover-up of intimate partner homicide against Irma Huerta Lopez. We in AF3IRM see the victimization of Celeste Guap and the suspected murder of Irma Huerta Lopez as attacks on transnational women of color’s bodily autonomy, survival, self-determination, and liberation. We name this malfeasance and violence for what it is: the ruthless triple oppression of patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy.
For over 25 years, AF3IRM has waged the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children. The most impacted communities in the sex trade are women of color, girls of color, and queer & trans people of color. Globally, women and girls comprise 97% of those trafficked for sexual exploitation. Every 2 out of 3 trafficked youth are girls from the global south. California is one of the primary hotspots for domestic and international human trafficking in the U.S and local conditions in the Bay Area mirror international trends. Trafficking reports from Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara Counties, and the city of Oakland demonstrate that Black and Latina women and girls are the most susceptible to sexual exploitation. In the Bay Area alone, 46% of all prosecuted human trafficking cases came from Alameda County, with the most common form of sexual exploitation in Oakland being homegrown domestic minor sex trafficking. Oakland is also the epicenter of the Bay Area’s largest “trafficking triangle,” with International Boulevard as the city’s most active area for street prostitution — the same street where Celeste Guap ran from her pimp towards Officer Brendan O’Brien, who later became the first police procurer.
Contrary to opinions which express that the OPD “sex scandal” detracts from “the real issues”, we in AF3IRM recognize that the fight against police terror and sex trafficking are interconnected and aim to abolish both! We echo some of the same demands made by other organizations and collectives, such as the Anti-Police Terror Project, but as transnational women of color who recognize the deep machinations and intersections of oppression, we must demand much more.
1. Investigate & hold OPD accountable for Celeste Guap’s sexual exploitation, trafficking, & rape!
All predator police, as previously stated by Anti-Police Terror Project, should be arrested and all officers who were aware of trafficking but failed to act should be fired. Furthermore, we in AF3IRM want a release of the names of all implicated officers and a full investigation launched by an outside agency that will investigate predatory officers participating in the sex trade. Their simultaneous roles as first-responders and perpetrators of rape and trafficking are undeniably dangerous to youth and women of color and should no longer be tolerated. Additionally, OPD must publicly state that coercion and enticement of a minor is never the fault of the child or youth.
2. Release the autopsy report to Irma Huerta Lopez’s family!
On June 16, 2014, Irma Huerta Lopez, wife of OPD Officer Brendan O’Brien, was found dead in his apartment. The death was first classified as a homicide, but then ruled a suicide. The investigating sergeants maintain that Irma Huerta Lopez shot herself twice in the head with O’Brien’s gun. However, Paulina Huerta, sister of Irma Huerta Lopez, remains unconvinced: “Why were there two shots if she killed herself?” Even the coroner’s report stated that there was no visible gunshot residue on her hands; it also noted her death to be suspicious. The family of Huerta Lopez believes that O’Brien murdered her and that OPD did not conduct a thorough investigation. AF3IRM supports Paulina Huerta’s call for accountability and justice and the family’s repeated demands for a copy of the autopsy report.
3. Defund the police! Commit funds to the community!
In Oakland, nearly all services provided to sexual exploitation victims begin after arrest, often resulting in criminal records. AF3IRM stands against the criminalization of people in the sex trade since the policing of those victimized does not end sexual violence and instead seek an investment in the community. We demand that the Oakland police budget be cut by 50%. In addition, law enforcement funds for anti-trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault response should be redirected into community-based programs–independent from police departments–that center survivors’ self determination and benefit the broader community. Here are a few places to begin:
- Services for Self-Determination: Trauma-informed & survivor-centered services as designated first responders (such as Sexual Assault Response SART or Domestic Violence Response DVRT teams), reentry programs, community-run job centers, legal aid;
- Health: Sexual/reproductive health care, community health clinics & low-income dental, community mental health & recovery services;
- Housing: Tenant protections, low-income housing, emergency & homeless shelters;
- Education: Public schools , after-school tutoring programs, extended library hours, trafficking awareness education (not to be mistaken for more cop trainings);
- Children & Youth: Low-income child care, youth programs, foster & transitional-aged youth services.
4. Resignation of Libby Schaaf!
Time and time again, the Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf has demonstrated that she is a threat to transnational women of color and our communities. From the ban on nighttime street protests, which were instituted aggressively on the evening of the #SayHerName campaign to end police violence against Black women, to the seven deaths of Black men under her watch, and the diminishing of Celeste Guap’s abuse as “sexual misconduct” and “frat-house” behavior, Libby is not a feminist ally. Her role in political repression, her investigation on whistleblowers, and the violation of women of color and Black lives shows that her power is harmful, oppressive, and deadly. Libby Schaaf poses as an ally, co-opting the language of “toxic masculinity,” while sanctioning white supremacist, patriarchal violence against our communities. AF3IRM calls for Mayor Libby Schaaf’s immediate resignation!
5. Decriminalize Sex Trafficking Victims/Survivors!
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office blames Celeste Guap for not reporting her own sexual exploitation. According to their spokesman J.D. Nelson, “She never came to our agency with any sort of complaint,” thus they “had no way of knowing about this sort of conduct.” However, 28 East Bay law enforcement officers were directly involved in the trafficking of Guap, including 14 Oakland police officers, 5 Richmond police officers, 3 Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies, a Livermore police officer and a Contra Costa County Sheriff’s deputy. It is outrageous to expect the victim to report their sexual abuse to the police, when the cops are the very people perpetuating the harm.
In the case of Celeste Guap, Oakland police officers extorted her for sex in exchange for avoiding arrest. Coercion is not protection. The business of this trade and the criminalization of the sexually exploited puts the most vulnerable in the hands of oppressors to coerce, to violate their autonomy under the threat of arrest, and consequently channel them into the prison industrial complex. By ending the criminalization of those prostituted and trafficked, we enhance the possibilities for survival and safety. AF3IRM demands the decriminalization of people exploited in the sex trade and denounces all systems of sexual enslavement!
We in AF3IRM believe deeply in the liberation of womankind and in dismantling systems of oppression. We see through this state institution’s so-called “protection” and challenge the patriarchal violence that has run rampant to abuse and subjugate transnational women of color.
We are most vulnerable to sexual violence. Our bodies are already deemed accessible, criminal, and violable by the state. We must build real power, demolish the systems that ensnare us and our communities, and create structures, systems, and resources that can protect us and our families. Denouncing the patriarchal violence, trafficking, rape, and murder of women perpetrated by the Oakland Police Department is just one step. If we call for the abolition of one arm of the state, such as the system of policing, we also have to dismantle the systems that maintain it, namely patriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism. We know “the existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery.” We aim to abolish all systems of enslavement- racial, sexual, and waged.
We call upon transnational women of color to get organized. Collective struggle calls for collective resistance. Together, we will apply pressure. Together, we will get our demands met. Our liberation depends on the work that we do together and the strength which our voices speak to power. Our oppression as transnational women of color has not only been social, emotional, and cultural but also material – and so must be our liberation.