By Gina Martinez
A rally in honor of Yang Song, a Chinese woman who died following a police raid of a Flushing massage parlor, was held Sunday in front of the 109th Precinct on Union Street.
The rally was organized by women’s support groups Sex Workers Project and Support Ho(s)e Dec. 17, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The Sex Workers Project was joined by the Queens community in demanding justice for Yang Song, who died in November when she fell three stories trying to escape the police when the 40th road massage parlor she worked in was raided by the NYPD Vice Squad.
According to police, officers attempted to apprehend 38-year-old Song during a raid and when they attempted to gain entry to the third floor apartment, she fell out the window and landed on the sidewalk. Police said Song died in New York Presbyterian Hospital Queens as a result of severe injuries to her head and body. According to police, the incident is still under investigation.
But her family, who traveled from China following her death, believe police were responsible for Song’s death.
Song’s mother attended the rally and in Chinese she told protesters that she does not believe her daughter jumped from the building by herself. Song’s mother and brother were considering their legal options but said they were not letting up until Song gets justice.
The Sex Worker Project called her death “yet another horrific example of the daily violence and injustice faced by sex workers around the world” and that her death “highlights the undeniable harm caused by criminalization and dangerous ‘rescue tactics’ employed by law enforcement that conflate sex work and human trafficking.” The protestors stressed that people in the sex trade are workers, parents, neighbors and friends navigating complex circumstances to survive and support their families.
Song’s family said that weeks before the raid Song was being harassed by a plainclothes officer. Song allegedly went to the 109th Precinct to point out her harasser and was approached by officers to be an informant regarding illegal massage parlors but she declined. Her brother said he received an anonymous letter from someone who claimed to be a close friend of Song’s claiming she had been robbed by undercover officers and wrote that her death was not an accident. The family also disputes claims that Song committed suicide. Her relatives said the window from Song fell did not have a place where she could stand and she also had recently purchased a plane ticket to travel back to China to visit.
At the rally people held up signs that read “Justice for Yang Song!” The Sex Workers Project said the rally was a call for an end to NYPD’s terrorizing of vulnerable communities and accountability for predatory practices which they said include profiling, street harassment, raids and extortion. The group also called for an end to criminal legal responses to “save” trafficking victims, such as Human Trafficking Intervention Courts and other misguided diversion models.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart