A protest designed to bring attention to human trafficking, mostly of teenagers into the sex trade, ended up not only bringing notice to their cause, but also stopped rush-hour traffic in-bound to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday evening.
The protest resulted in two arrests, police say.
“Why couldn’t they do it when we all weren’t trying to go home,” groused one unhappy motorist sitting in his car on the bridge in traffic as police cleared the protestors from the roadway at Adams Street and Tillary Street at the base of the bridge.
The protest, led by activist Rev. Kevin McCall and members of Freedom Youth LLC, the Bronx Human Rights and Trafficking Taskforce, was designed to highlight human trafficking which involves recruitment, harboring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will. Most of those sucked into human trafficking are forced into the sex trades as prostitutes or different types of slavery.
The protestors carried a banner as they were walking into traffic on the Tillary Street side of the Brooklyn Bridge at about 6 p.m. on Jan. 28. At the end, Rev. McCall and Peter Jones were arrested by police and charged with disorderly conduct and blocking the bridge traffic.
Rev. McCall, who led the small band of marchers, said the Department of Education has failed to deal with the issue that he says is a national problem. He pointed to the notorious case of Jeffrey Epstein recruiting young women for sex and prostitution and he said the worst cases of prostitution actually occurs on Superbowl Sunday.
“He was trafficked young girls and he could do it just because he had money,” McCall said. “The problem is most happening on Superbowl Sunday and statistics show that is the biggest day that prostitution happens in city and all over world. It is mostly white men and elitists and we’ve heard the survivor stories. We also hear how they tried to recruit young women so this is not something we are making up – so we will stop the city and traffic.”
McCall said recruitment starts at New York City public schools and according to protestors the Department of Education curriculum to address it and administrator don’t know how to deal with or recognize the signs.
“We need to get ahead of it with a preventive aspect more than not deal with it at all,” McCall said. “There have been multiple stories of the post-abducted — so we need to get ahead of fray and we will disrupt the bridge. Don’t blame us for stopping traffic blame because the mayor and governor are not doing anything about it.”
One of the supporters, Joseph Riley, declined to be arrested, but said his children have to avoid friends who try to get them into the trade.
“Kids must avoid their friends who are pushing them along into trafficking,” he said. “Some kids friends are becoming the number one pimps I want my voice to be heard, I want this to be pushed in all school systems. If they can do sex education in the school , then they can teach about human trafficking.”
Fallon George watched as McCall and Jones were arrested. She said it was necessary to get arrested to bring awareness to the ‘crisis.’
“Human trafficking is very important and it’s going on in all five boroughs,” George said. “We are here to bring awareness to this. Getting arrested makes it real and shows it’s really important — children are getting kidnapped and children falling victim to human trafficking. It makes sure people know that this is something that needs attention in our schools. You have to stop traffic an bring awareness to this.”
And if the protest wasn’t enough, the Manhattan-bound Brooklyn Bridge was also blocked for a short time as police had to back a tractor trailer off the roadway after it got onto the bridge from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. A truck that size would get stuck and commercial vehicles are not permitted on the bridge.