Update: Utah AG postpones human trafficking awareness march
Aug 21, 2020, 2:18 PM | Updated: Aug 22, 2020, 4:59 pm
(PHOTO: Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Utah Attorney General announced Friday the march to raise awareness of human trafficking and child exploitation will be postponed for several weeks.
Attached to a tweet send out from Attorney General Sean Reyes was a statement explaining the decision to postpone the event was came after questions that arose about other human trafficking awareness events that were happening at the same time.
— Utah Attorney General (@UtahAG) August 22, 2020
“Upon receiving further information, including careful investigation of citizen input, event organizers determined that there were too many questions about one of the partners, and rescheduling this event would prevent public confusion with associated agendas and political causes,” Reyes said in the statement.
Attorney General separates from #SavetheChildren
The event, that is now postponed, is not connected to the “Save the Children” movement or in collaboration with Operation Underground Railroad, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
The clarification comes after online concerns questioning whether the Saturday march was in connection with “Save the Children” — a movement recently being hijacked by an online conspiracy theory group.
The group is called QAnon, an online pro-Trump conspiracy community that seeks to spread misinformation.
QAnon first emerged on the Internet in 2017, but has resurged online — spreading theories on child trafficking and high-government crimes. The anonymous group has essentially hijacked the “Save the Children” movement: creating baseless claims about who they think is behind human trafficking in the U.S.
It’s increased prominence online led to Facebook removing 790 QAnon groups from its site Wednesday, restricting thousands more in connection with the right-wing conspiracy movement.
But the group has left its mark, blurring the lines between what social media users determine human trafficking activism and what is merely misinformation.
March with ‘Freedom for the Children’ movement
However, the Utah Attorney General’s office confirmed to KSL NewsRadio its event was not in connection with #SavetheChildren or Operation Underground Railroad — whose founder Tim Ballard hasn’t denounced the QAnon interference.
Attorney General Sean Reyes later took to Twitter to address the concerns.
We’ve been getting some questions about the event. This event is separate and NOT related to the Save the Children group. It is with Freedom for the Children. While Save the Children has similar events going on the same day, we and this event are not part of that movement. #utpol
— Utah Attorney General (@UtahAG) August 21, 2020
This comes after increased concerns surrounding increased missing children reports, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports a surge in electronic tips, with nearly 4 million in April. That’s double the number of tips from just the month before, with over 2 million in March.
It’s also an increase from an April 2019 report, which cites roughly 3 million tips during that month.
In Salt Lake City, the march will feature an array of human trafficking experts to speak during the event. Speakers will touch on trauma-informed recovery, legislation, law enforcement and resources for survivors.
It will also feature personal stories from trafficking victims.
The march will begin at 9 a.m. in Liberty Park, located at 600 East 900 South, Salt Lake City, Utah.