Vancouver Sex Workers and Friends Take to the Streets Protesting Bill C-36
From NSWP member, Triple X reporting on the Red Umbrella March held in Vancouver on the 14th of June in protest of the new regressive Canadian legislation on sex work being proposed. Triple X also developed a leaflet for the march entitled: 'Why Sex Work Should Not Be A Crime' which you can download here.
It was a typical Vancouver Saturday in June. Grey and wet, downtown streets bustling with umbrellas. But by the time my taxi pulled up beside the Vancouver Art Gallery, the crowd of umbrellas had all turned to red! A moment later, the annual World Naked Bike Ride flew along Robson Street passing by the art gallery steps.
Red umbrellas and placards littered the steps of the Art Gallery while Triple-X director, Anna Smith brandished a sign that read: "Exit strategy for Peter MacKay, Minister for No Justice." Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, Libby Davies with her bullhorn was speaking to the brightly-dressed crowd who were listening intently and cheering.
Next, a young man, Tom, well dressed in a black suit and red tie, told his personal story for the first time. He became a sex worker in order to pull his life together and stay off drugs.
"I was truly broken and doing sex work was the only way for me to build my life again. Having the ability to make my own money, pick my own hours, choose my clients and set limits gave me back a sense of power and control that I had lost to my addiction."
His story moved the crowd who responded with loud applause and cheers.
The final speaker was the incomparable Velvet Steele, a professional dominatrix and star from the TV series, Kink. Velvet gave the government hell, whipping up the crowd until myself, Triple-X president, Andy Sorfleet and Pivot Legal Society Chair, Kerry Porth took up the Triple-X banner and forged their way to the edge of Robson and stepped into the street. They led the crowd through the Granville Street entertainment district before turning onto Pender, Vancouver's once historic area for brothels.
Once on Pender, Sex Workers United Against Violence headed up the march which had grown to over 200 people. A sea of red umbrellas filled Hastings Street with chants: "Sex workers' rights are human rights," "Keep your laws off my body," "Harper's laws have got to go," "My clients are not criminals" and "Only rights can stop the wrongs."
The red umbrella parade winded past the old Carnegie Public Library onto Main Street and over the bridge that leads to CRAB (Creating Real Accessible Beach) Park which overlooks the Burrard Inlet. Once in the park, marchers gathered for a final round of chants led by Esther Shannon from FIRST: Who's united? We are! Who's powerful? We are! Who's going to win? We are!!
Triple-X director, Will Pritchard, prepared watermelon and orange slices, and the crowd took the opportunity to mingle a bit, expressing their joy in the event's huge success, before drifting off to enjoy the rest of their Saturday.
I would like to mention also the most excellent Vancouver police escorts on bikes, motorcycles and a cruiser which stopped and directed traffic and kept our parade safe through Vancouver's busy downtown.
A big congratulations to you all!
Here is a group photo of all the organizers and participants who attended the finale in CRAB Park. Photo by Emma Campbell, Combination Films (Thank you Kerry.)
The Red Umbrella March was organized by the following Vancouver groups: Triple-X Workers? Solidarity Association of B.C., Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence, Pivot Legal Society, Providing Alternatives, Counselling and Education Society, B.C. Coalition of Experiential Communities, FIRST: Feminists Advocating for the Decriminalization of Sex Work.
For more photos see go to our twitter feed.
The Red Umbrella March was part of a national day of action, with events in cities across Canada, including in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Halifax.