If you passed by the Turkish or Swedish consulates in New York on Friday, you may have seen a knot of sex workers and their supporters holding red umbrellas—both as a symbol of sex workers' rights and a shield against the sun on what was the hottest day of the year. The protestors, about a dozen at their peak, kept a spirited vigil over several hours, chanting, passing out fliers, and fielding questions from midtown Manhattan's business attire class. One man on the Park Avenue sidewalk in front of the Swedish consulate asked nervously, "Are you all… professionals?" Some protestors turned their heads and smiled.
The New York action accompanied rallies in 36 cities and on four continents for an international day of action demanding an end to the stigma and violence against sex workers’ communities. Two recent murders sparked the protests: of Dora Özer, a sex worker and trans woman from Kuşadası in Turkey who was stabbed by a man posing as a client on July 9, and of Petite Jasmine, a sex worker and mother of two children stabbed by her ex-husband in Sweden on July 11. Calls for justice for Dora and Jasmine, prompted by the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), spread quickly through social media in the week leading up to Friday's actions.