Two local organizations teamed up Monday to spread awareness about an often unspoken issue throughout UF.
Fight Injustice and Global Human Trafficking and Gators for Free the Slaves hosted “A Picture of Freedom,” an interactive demonstration about the meaning of freedom, on the Plaza of the Americas.
The demonstration, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., kicked off Justice Week 2013, a six-day series of events to raise awareness in Gainesville about human trafficking, which is the illegal practice of modern slavery, said Jessy John, vice president of FIGHT.
The two organizations first hosted Justice Week together in January 2012.
Participants were asked to write what freedom meant to them on a small chalkboard before having their pictures taken with the message.
Jordan Shannon, a 20-year-old UF history senior, wrote “the right to free will” for his photo. Shannon said he was glad to participate in the event.
“I learned a lot that I didn’t know,” he said. “They are very passionate, and they’re doing their best to spread awareness.”
The pictures will be uploaded to the Justice Week 2013 Facebook page, where participants can tag themselves and share their photos with friends, John said.
Christopher Barton, a 21-year-old UF political science and criminology senior and president of Gators for Free the Slaves, said human trafficking is a big problem today.
“The fact is that slaves are more available, more numerous, and cheaper than they’ve ever been, despite the fact that it’s illegal everywhere,” he said. “It violates the dignity of every human being.”
Many people, Barton added, don’t realize human trafficking is a serious issue in the United States.
Florida ranks third in the country for human trafficking, behind California and Texas, according the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
“It’s an important issue because it’s an invisible issue,” he said.
John said she thinks people nationwide don’t fully understand the horrors victims of human trafficking face.
“Imagine if it was your sister, your cousin, your friend,” she said. “We shouldn’t be indifferent because they’re strangers.”
Lauren Acton contributed to this report.
Jessica Forbes, 19, a UF applied physiology and kinesiology freshman, writes on a board at a demonstration fighting against human trafficking during Justice Week on Monday on Plaza of the Americas.