Silence Will Fall

Natasha Lam discusses the A21 Walk for Freedom, a protest against human trafficking and slavery.

People marched through London on Saturday 14th October 2017 as part of a protest calling for the end of modern slavery around the world.

The Walk for Freedom march is organised by A21, a charity organisation fighting human trafficking and slavery. It is an annual event that aims to get people to stand together against “forced labour, servitude and sexual exploitation”.

A21’s Walk for Freedom is organised all over the world, with marches in 48 states in the US and over 20 counties in the UK. There are also participating walks in most of the EU, Australia, Canada, South America and in a few Asian countries. Charlie Blythe, director of A21’s UK division and the organiser of the walk, stated that the walk is “one of those things that makes you feel great, to do something for others… it is something everybody can do to make an impact”. The charity’s tag line states that they “are the new abolitionists”, working to end modern day slavery and grant freedom to those that have been or still are victims of slavery.

Protesters walked in silence, starting from Old Palace Yard in Westminster at 9:30am, all the way through famous London landmarks like Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus.

They were dressed in all black and most placed tape across their mouths to represent the silencing of those that have been captured and forced into slavery. Additionally, the tape served to symbolise the lack of awareness of modern day slavery and the fact that it is not something often spoken of in the public sphere.

Some people tied yellow cloths around their mouths with the names of victims of slavery and human trafficking written across it, in an effort to be even more striking in their message. In true protest fashion, protesters also held placards with specific messages written on them. These included phrases like “slavery still exists” and “abolish slavery everywhere, forever”.

According to A21, human trafficking and slavery is “the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, generating more than $150 billion USD every year”. Sex trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude are among the most common forms of slavery and trafficking that exist here in the UK. The Evening Standard reports that at least 40 million people worldwide are living as slaves. 28 million of the world’s total are women.

Within London, most enslaved women are forced into sex work and working for businesses that keep them there unpaid and continually paying back an invisible mountain of debt to the slavers.

A21’s work is extremely important and, following their Walk for Freedom, the charity aims to hold more events to combat and raise awareness for modern slavery in the UK,  and the world. •