Southern Utah community gathers to silently protest ‘fastest growing crime in the U.S.’

Participants dressed in black hold signs while walking up Main Street for the Walk for Freedom in St. George, Utah, Oct. 20, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Dressed in black and walking in a single file line, members of the Southern Utah community silently protested the fastest growing crime in the U.S. — human trafficking.

Walk for Freedom in St. George, Utah, Oct. 20, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The worldwide walk known as “Walk for Freedom” made its first presence in Southern Utah Saturday morning, as over 30 people walked up Main Street and St. George Boulevard. Cammy Bowker, CEO and founder of Global Education Philanthropists, hosted the first Walk for Freedom in St. George. She described human trafficking as a crime that’s always happening; we just don’t know it.

As participants walked, they held signs acknowledging facts regarding human trafficking, with some using smart devices to play the podcast “Abolish Slavery with Each Step” out loud. People near Main Street stopped to gawk at the line of black flowing down the street, and cars were heard honking as they drove by.

As someone who has worked closely with police departments in Washington County, Bowker said people are trafficked in St. George every day.

I know personally three people in St. George who have had their children trafficked within the last two years, and that’s just the ones I know about,” she told St. George News.

Human trafficking is known as a hidden crime, according to Homeland Security, because victims rarely come forward due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers or fear of law enforcement.

In order to combat the hidden crime, global organization A21 started the Walk for Freedom, and people showed up to walk in over 400 locations in 50 different countries last year. However, Utah is one of the few states A21 hasn’t worked with, until now. St. George is the only city in Utah to have participated in the walk.

Although it isn’t commonly talked about in St. George, Bowker said human trafficking has become an issue because of the city’s proximity to Las Vegas, which is one of the cities with the highest rates for sex trafficking. In 2017, Nevada had 199 human trafficking cases reported.

“We have the I-15 corridor,” she said. “St. George is just a stopping point for picking up and dropping off kids, women and sometimes boys and men.”

According to A21, human trafficking generates more than $150 billion every year, and less than 1 percent of victims are rescued. The following are types of human trafficking listed on the A21 website:

  • Sex trafficking: Forcing, deceiving or coercing a person to perform a commercial sex act.
  • Forced labor: Forcing a person to work in captivity for little or no pay.
  • Bonded labor: Forcing a person to work for low wages to pay back an impossible debt.
  • Involuntary domestic servitude: Forcing a person to work and live in the same place for little or no pay.
  • Child soldiers: Forcing a child to participate in an armed force.

Global Education Philanthropists is a St. George-based organization dedicated to educating communities about human trafficking and aiding victims once rescued. Kody Davis, chief operating officer for Global E.P., said the organization works closely with the FBI to provide rescue packs to victims.

Walk for Freedom in St. George, Utah, Oct. 20, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

“After a person is recused,” Davis said, “they really have nothing because they were enslaved.”

The rescue packs Global E.P. puts together consist of toiletries, pajamas, flip-flops, snacks, a journal and pen, ChapStick and water inside of a backpack.

The rescue packs are created based on donations, and Davis said people can donate by visiting the Global E.P. website.

Global E.P. representatives said they’ll continue to host the Walk for Freedom in St. George year after year.

“We have to raise awareness if we want to make our city one of the cities it can’t happen in,” Bowker said.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Carpe Diem October 20, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    The biggest sex traffickers in the area are the FLDS church. It’s known and NOT any secret, and they have sent children to assigned domestic enslavements while still minors, back and forth to Canada, Texas, and likely other compounds in Colorado and North Dakota.

    The FBI has done nothing despite violations of the MANN act and other laws. Texas stepped up and put a dozen in prison, where Warren Jeffs rots.. for life. Lots of other FLDS men escaped the sex trafficking dragnet though, especially when they stay in UT and AZ.


  • Craig October 20, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve heard that at any truck stop along an Interstate there is likely sex trafficking occurring.

    If I remember correctly at one of the more recent Olympics, a reporter found the areas where sex traffickers were setting up. It may have been Rio.

    It’s sad we see people breaking the law destroying statues they claim are offensive from slavery prior to the Civil War, yet don’t do a damn thing about all the slavery today.

    A great place traffickers get victims is those coming to America through Central America and Mexico. The reported abuse of the people is horrible but we keep demanding to let them continue to come, far too many to their death. The wall would actually save lives and women from enslavement.

  • KR567 October 20, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Regurgitated news

  • mshaw October 21, 2018 at 1:24 am

    Looks like a bunch of Hillary supporters

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