On June 19, approximately 60 people demonstrated outside the Franklin County Court in Columbus, Ohio, demanding justice for Donna Dalton, who was killed by police nearly two years earlier.
Dalton was a mother of two daughters. Her family members describe how an abusive partner introduced her to heroin and then pressured her into sex work to obtain cash to fuel his drug habit. On August 23, 2018, she was picked up by undercover officer Andrew Mitchell of the Columbus Police Vice Squad. Video surveillance from that night shows that Mitchell pulled his unmarked car up to a wall so that Dalton would be unable to open the door to exit the vehicle. While he was allegedly trying to take her into custody, Mitchell sustained a stab wound to his hand, after which he shot her multiple times in the abdomen, leg and heart.
After Dalton’s death, subsequent investigations revealed that Mitchell had multiple complaints against him, and he was arrested by the FBI for abducting at least two other women “under the guise of an arrest and forcing them to engage in sex for their freedom.” He was charged with “witness tampering, making false statements, obstruction of justice, and deprivation of rights under the color of law.”
Nearly two years later, community members and organizers from SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and PJP (People’s Justice Project) joined family members of Dalton outside the Franklin County Court to await news on Mitchell’s bond hearing. “He is guilty,” said Tammy Fournier Alsaada, local author and founder of PJP, “but the whole damn system is guilty. Today is Juneteenth … and I demand our freedom!”
It was announced during the event that Mitchell received a $1million bond, and would be awaiting another bond hearing on the federal level. “Now he has the chance to get out of jail,” said Dalton’s sister. “Now he has the chance to walk among us, to harass other women.” She added: “One thing that I have learned, and that I know I have to take away from this situation and carry with me for the rest of my life, and pass on to my children and my grandchildren, is to never trust the system.”
Local activists embraced and shared tears with Dalton’s family, and spoke about the intersections of race and class as they pertain to police violence. “What is sex work?” said a representative of SURJ. “Sex work is trading sex for money, for safety, for survival… Because sex work is a crime, police can extort, abuse, harass and kill sex workers. Sex workers have a right to say no. Sex workers have a right to defend themselves. Donna Dalton had a right to say no and defend herself.”
For exercising her right to defend herself, Donna Dalton was extra-judicially executed. Facing a system stacked against them by the full power of the state and federal government, the loving family members left behind in the wake of Dalton’s murder — her mother, two older sisters and her two young children — continue their battle for justice.