Freedom For All, a nonprofit organization to fight human trafficking, hosted three anti-trafficking demonstrations on March 5 throughout New York City.
In the third demonstration five actors, including four adults and a young girl, were led onto the steps of Washington Square Park’s outdoor stage and gathered in front of a crowd of about 20 people. A staged auctioneer then proceeded to auction them off to several people acting as bidders who were placed among the crowd.
Kim Dempster, the demonstration’s director, said the auction was a creative way to explore the issue.
“I thought it would be good to do these auctions and get attention for the problem rather to do just awareness campaigns,” Dempster said.
New School sophomore Gabriel Franklin said the impact of the visual aid was profound.
“At first, I was thinking they were shooting a TV show, but things started getting really serious when they started selling the little girl,” Franklin said.
One man from the crowd appeared to not realize it was a demonstration and tried to purchase the young girl being sold.
One of the actresses, Deborah Twiss, was shocked by the man.
“I wanted to jump off the stage at him,” Twiss said.
The Washington Square Park demonstration was the last and least crowded demonstration of the day, following demonstrations in Times Square and Wall Street.
“We did them all over the city and the temperature just dropped,” Dempster said. “So I think the one in Washington Square Park wasn’t very effective. I think it will be super effective online. But if we affect three people, we’ve done a great job”
Despite the lack of onlookers at the park demonstration, Katie Ford, CEO of Freedom For All, is excited about the public’s growing awareness of human trafficking.
“I think awareness of this problem has drastically increased since I started working for the cause seven years ago,” Ford said. “The number of people who have heard the term ‘human trafficking’ now is much larger than it ever has been.”
After the demonstration, the actors stepped off the stage and handed out informational fliers, while a man holding a sign that said “Freedom For All #STOPTHENIGHTMARE” stood onstage.
“It got me so bad, like really uncomfortable,” Franklin said. “Now that I have information about it I’ll check it out. It’s something we hear about every day, but we never get to see how it affects people, and that’s really important.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 6 print edition. Larson Binzer is a deputy news editor. Email her at [email protected]