Standing up for the children

Francia Benson

30 million people are enslaved worldwide, including two million children, according to the non-profit organization Operation Underground Railroad.

To create awareness for the movement and of those who are enslaved, on the World Day Against Trafficking Persons Day, OUR organized several marches across 45 states.

Around 3800 people attended in Salt Lake City. The march began and ended at the Capitol after a march around several blocks.

The theme of the march was “Rise Up for the Children.” People held signs or wore t-shirts with statements : “Children are not for sale,” “Children are not commodities” and “Slavery didn’t end with Lincoln.”

Yellow and blue balloons were let loose to the sky. Yellow represents Operation Underground Railroad, and blue represents child abuse awareness.

Cars honked along with the march and attendees chanted in support.

It was a peaceful protest, with some tearing up while others chanted at the top of their lungs, “Rescue the children.”

Cate Pendleton, writer and floral designer, who once witnessed the kidnapping of a little Hispanic girl, expressed that child sex trafficking should be a concern for everyone and not just parents

“The march itself creates awareness, which is a feat in itself, but I get concerned because we have seen movements similar to this in the past, and no real thing came of it,” Pendleton said.

People who could not attend the march joined virtually by posting child trafficking awareness posts on social media.

The night before the marches, many people posted a candlelight photo for the children yet to be rescued.

Tim Ballard, the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad, gave a speech at the end of the march, which was broadcast to all participating marches.

He explained that child abuse cases are millions higher this year than they were last year.

According to the Cyberline Tipline, last April, they received around one million reports of child exploitation online. This April, the Center received more than four million reports.

The increase is theorized to be because children are at home and using social media more often because of the pandemic.

Jalynn Shroeder, activist and businesswoman, encourages others to look into organizations that are fighting traffic to see the extent of the problem.

“It’s easy to think it wouldn’t happen to us, but the reality is, it’s happening in every single state, city and possibly even in our own neighborhoods,” Shroeder said.