Yet another life has been cut short by a murderous cop, anti-sex worker bias, and the ongoing criminalization of sex work.
Donna Dalton Castleberry, a 23-year-old mother of two, was shot eight times at point-blank range on August 23 by Columbus, Ohio undercover vice cop Andrew Mitchell. Castleberry was inside an unmarked police vehicle when she was killed by Mitchell, who alleged that she attempted to stab him in the hand with a knife. Two days earlier, a judge had issued a warrant for Dalton’s arrest for failing to appear for sentencing on a misdemeanor soliciting charge.
Two days later, over 100 friends, family members, and supporters held a memorial vigil for Donna.
“The family is crying out for justice and answers,” said the victim’s older sister, Bobbi McCalla, on her GoFundMe campaign to cover Castleberry’s final expenses. According to McCalla, enough has already been raised for the funeral, and all additional contributions will go toward a potential legal fight against the city of Columbus and its police department.
“If I were in that position, I might lunge at someone if I feared for my life,” said Castleberrry’s cousin, Mary Laile, about Donna’s last moments.
According to a police spokesperson, other cops on the scene claimed a conversation took place inside Mitchell’s car before he opened fire. While no further information is available concerning the circumstances of Castleberry’s death, we can easily imagine that she may have gotten into the unmarked vehicle believing Mitchell to be a client, then acted in self-defense when she discovered otherwise. Just such situations are all too familiar to sex workers, who face on-the-job violence every day at the hands of both cops and clients. Due to the criminalization of our profession, sex workers are denied redress for this violence. Meanwhile, recent legislation such as SESTA/FOSTA, which targets online discourse concerning sex work, has forced more sex workers on to the street and into more dangerous working conditions. While these conditions prevail, we can expect to see an increase in murders such as Castleberry’s, and other instances of violence against sex workers.
Donna Dalton Castleberry fell victim to intersecting forces of oppression: the ability of police to kill with impunity, and the stigma that says sex workers’ lives are disposable.
SWOP-Chicago stands in mourning, rage, and solidarity with the family of Donna Dalton Castleberry, and Ohio’s sex worker community.
#sexworkersrightsarehumanrights #sexworkiswork #LetUsSurvive #nokillercops
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