Students march to raise awareness of human trafficking

As many of you may know, Minneapolis is hosting the Super Bowl. As great as hosting the event is, there are negative effects on the community that accompany it – such as human trafficking. Human trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

The number of human trafficking cases and abductions increase when big events come to a particular area for things such as sporting events and concerts. This is why, when the Twin Cities was chosen to host the 2018 Super Bowl, preparation and planning to address the increase in sex trafficking numbers was put into place nearly a year and a half before. Along the with Super Bowl Anti-Trafficking Committee, there have been and still are organizations in the Twin Cities such as Breaking Free.

Senior Ronnie Deckard

Breaking Free was established in October 1996, as a non-profit organization serving women involved in systems of abuse, exploitation, and prostitution/sex trafficking. Terry Forliti, executive director at Breaking Free, is setting up temporary rooms for the increased number of victims and helping lead a march to raise awareness about sexual exploitation.

Kenzie King and Ava Kunze

Today, on February 1st, DeLaSalle invited other schools and people who are passionate about raising sexual exploitation awareness to participate in a march on Hennepin Avenue to spread the word. Other Holy Family students and I, made the trek down to DeLaSalle in the even busier than normal Twin Cities area to participate in the march and utilize our freedom of speech.

Leading up the the march, students created signs to hold during the march. Researching key points or facts to display on my poster was eye opening in itself. Reading the statistics were shocking and I was honestly surprised that it had never crossed my mind that an increase in sex trafficking would be a result of something like the Super Bowl. With the realization of my lack of knowledge on the subject, I dug even deeper into information on human trafficking and why it occurs. This same passion on the topic can be visibly seen in other students, such as Ronnie Deckard, who helped plan Holy Family’s participation and took the time to make her awareness poster into a work of art.

With Holy Family students squished into a small Subaru, we made it to the march and began by congregating at DeLaSalle for information on the march, some rally speeches, and a prayer. Braving the 5° weather, we along with several other schools and adults, marched down the Grain Belt Bridge, down Hennepin Avenue, and up to First Avenue, while chanting things such as “MN girls are not for sale.” and “Pimps and Johns go home, leave our girls alone.”

We were accompanied by several agencies who work to support victims. A journalist from the Catholic Spirit also interviewed some of us and took pictures for his article on our march.

Seeing the drivers of passing cars shoot us a big thumbs or perhaps honk their horn in support of our cause was a really cool experience. It felt like what we were doing was really making a difference. Along the way, we handed out informational cards with signs of a perpetrator and information for help. Receiving big smiles from people walking on the streets or business men and women working in offices made up for the numb parts of our bodies.

With a successful turn out and march, while being chilled to what felt like an ice cube, the group made it back to DeLaSalle for more information on human trafficking and some points to close up our night. There, Terry Forliti and Peg Hodapp closed up our time together and reminded us that human trafficking is a problem is in our community 365 days a year, every hour, every minute of every day.

We need to remember that when the Super Bowl leaves, human trafficking is still going to be a problem. It doesn’t just “go away”. So while raising awareness about human trafficking during the Super Bowl is important, it is still pertinent at any point in time.

Overall, the experience was something I had never encountered before. I loved being able to exercise my rights and speak out about the injustices in our society. Seeing people’s reactions to our movement was one of my favorite experiences. With over 60 arrests made in the Twin Cities related to human trafficking so far, it is evident that this is something that needs to be addressed. Not just this week, but always.