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Friday, May 7, 2021

Standing for freedom in Red Square

Students stood in Red Square for 28 hours to raise awareness for human trafficking in the local Bellingham area. The student protestors began standing at noon on Wednesday, April 13, and remained standing until 4 p.m. Thursday, April 14.

Western’s chapter of the International Justice Mission collaborated with the National International Justice Mission and chapters on many college campuses to participate in the event, called Stand4Freedom. Those campuses stood for 24 hours, while Western’s chapter chose to extend the time to 28 hours in order to allow a human trafficking class to join the event during class time.

International Justice Mission Club co-founder and social media coordinator for the club Kesia Lee said the event was intentionally simple and something anyone could do because it would represent the reality of human trafficking as “an issue that just so often happens.”

“We’re really hoping that a lot of people are going to see what we’re doing and come stand with us,” Lee said. “Even if it’s two minutes with their backpack on their back between classes.”

Senior Thomas Clinkenbeard, International Justice Mission club member and connections coordinator said the group was specifically trying to raise awareness for labor and sex trafficking in Bellingham because it’s where students can have the most impact. The ports in Bellingham and its position along the I-5 corridor contribute heavily to the trafficking industry, Clinkenbeard said.

There were approximately 20 volunteers standing between 9 and 10 p.m. Wednesday, and by 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, 71 volunteers had joined the event, Clinkenbeard said.

The club had students write their definitions of justice on strips of construction paper, which participants held to form a chain. The chains are meant to represent the idea of bondage associated with human trafficking, Lee said.

Clinkenbeard and Natasha Bennett, club president and co-founder, stayed awake all night while other members stood in shifts and others slept.

“A lot of people thought we were crazy at that point last night,” Clinkenbeard said. “Some people said it was a silly time to be doing it, which maybe is true, but we explained that part of it is a statement that we’re willing to stay up that long and stay standing for that long.”

*In a previous issue, Kesia Lee was stated to be the social media coordinator for Western, not the social media coordinator for the International Justice Mission Club.

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