IDAHO FALLS – If you’ve been on Memorial Drive in Idaho Falls lately, you may have noticed some chalk art along the street.
A group of volunteers met over the course of several days last week, writing messages to raise awareness of child sex trafficking prevention.
“We wanted to raise awareness in the community … because there is a big community problem with child pornography and child trafficking. People don’t talk about it, but it isn’t something we can avoid,” Kelsee Allison, one of the organizers of the event, tells EastIdahoNews.com.
About four or five people met at the intersection of Broadway and Memorial Drive around 1 a.m. Monday and Saturday to avoid traffic. The group was there to “chalk with purpose” for about two hours each day. Some of the messages written in chalk include “Child Lives Matter” and “I AM not 4 $ale #everychildmatters.”
“We just write what we feel like writing, usually ‘Save the children. Stop human trafficking,'” says Allison.
The goal of the project is to get people to learn more about it and do something to help stop it.
This project comes more than a week after a protest on the corner of 17th and Hitt Road in Idaho Falls.
Though child trafficking has been an ongoing issue for years, it recently became a trending conversation nationwide after Tim Ballard, CEO and founder of Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing child trafficking victims, said the COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in an increase of child trafficking across the country.
“These kids are home and they’re told to sit here with their laptop and smartphone while mom and dad go and scavenge for food and jobs. We have labs all over the world and we see the communication (between pedophiles and children) and … it’s harvest time for these kids,” Ballard said in a recent interview. “Our kids are sitting ducks … and no one is talking about what’s happening to them.”
Among traffickers, Ballard said the U.S. is one of the top three countries in the world where kids are targeted and it’s the highest in demand for child rape videos.
Interest in #Pizzagate is also rising again several years after it went viral. Pizzagate first gained prominence during the 2016 presidential election cycle. It connected several high-ranking Democratic Party officials and U.S. restaurants with an alleged human trafficking and child sex ring, according to Esquire. Many media outlets later debunked it as a conspiracy theory.
The resurgence of interest in this issue and Allison’s personal experience with abuse is what inspired her to host this chalk event.
“It sparked my curiosity, and I thought, ‘This is not right. This is not ok.’ These children, these babies are being abused. There is horrible things happening to them and they don’t have a voice. I can be their voice,” she says.
When the group met on Monday, Allison says they met two girls who had been victims of human trafficking. It’s an issue that is more widespread than most people realize, she says, and she wants to help educate people about it.
“There are signs and words that children use that people don’t understand. My goal is to educate myself and others on what to look for and what we can do to help save a child in this situation,” Allison says.
Allison is encouraging people to search the hashtags on Google and social media, including #PandaEyes, #FrazzleDrip, #SaveTheChildren, #SaveTheBabies and #StopHumanTrafficking.
Allison is planning another chalk drawing event on Saturday, Aug. 22. You can follow the “Save the Child” Facebook page for all the details.