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    Anchorage rally aims to mobilize fight against sex trafficking, child slavery

    AlaskaWatchman.com

    Human sex trafficking, including abuse perpetrated on minors has become an international scourge that has left its mark on Alaska.

    July 30 is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, and a group called Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is sponsoring “Rise up for Children” rallies to raise awareness of child trafficking and slavery across the nation, including in Anchorage.

    Founded in 2013, Operation Underground Railroad works with local law enforcement to mobilize extraction operations and anti-child trafficking efforts with the aim of ending child slavery. The group includes former CIA members, past and present law enforcement, and highly skilled operatives that lead coordinated extraction efforts.

    “One thing I have noticed is that not a lot of people know about this issue,” said Tyler Sutton, who is organizing the upcoming Anchorage rally on July 30. “It is a horrible thing and some people don’t want to face how bad it is. It is kind of ignored.”

    While sex trafficking is a rising problem, fighting it has proved difficult because of the inherent underground nature of the crime. The International Labor Organization estimates there are 4.8 million sex trafficking victims globally – 99% are women and girls.

    Sutton got involved with Operation Underground Railroad after watching a documentary by the group that showed how they rescued 29 child slaves in Haiti. But Sutton said the problem hits much closer to home.

    2017 study by Loyola University New Orleans and Covenant House surveyed 10 North American cities and found Anchorage to have the most human trafficking incidents.

    Adam Legg is the executive director of Love Alaska, a statewide group that mobilizes people of faith to assist Alaska’s most vulnerable populations. Priceless, is one of the group’s outreaches that helps Alaskans transition out of sex trafficking. In an interview with the Watchman this past winter Legg said there is “not an area of our state where trafficking does not exist.”

    “It’s happening everywhere,” Sutton said. “But a lot of people just don’t notice.”

    In organizing the upcoming Rise Up for Children rally, Sutton said the goal is to raise greater awareness of the issue and inspire Alaskans to take a stand against modern-day slavery, especially with regard to minors. He is asking rally participants to bring homemade signs and to wear either blue or yellow. Yellow represents the color of Operation Underground Railroad and blue is the international color against child abuse.

    “We’ll be out there for the kids,” he said. “They can’t go out and protest and organize for themselves. We’re there in their stead.”

    A notice for the rally notes that since COVID-19 hit, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has experienced a surge of sex crimes against children.

    According to NCMEC, predators have been “openly discussing the pandemic as an opportunity to entice unsupervised children into producing sexually explicit material.”

    “It’s happening everywhere,” Sutton said. “But a lot of people just don’t notice.”

    TAKING ACTION

    • The Rise up for Children rally will take place on July 30, 4-6 p.m. at 442 Gambell Street in Anchorage. Participants are asked to make signs that raise awareness of child slavery and trafficking.
    • Click here to contact local legislators and urge them to address this issue.

    Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

    Joel Davidson
    Joel Davidson
    Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.

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