Roughly a dozen people holding signs and asking for petition signatures gathered at the foot of the Allen Street Gates Thursday night as part of a 27-hour long effort by Penn State’s chapter of the International Justice Mission to raise awareness for slavery around the world.
Starting at 4 p.m. yesterday in the high winds and light snow, the group will stand in shifts for over a day with each hour representing one million people forced into slavery and a total of 27 million people at any given time. The group will continue to stand until 7 p.m. today at the corner of College Ave. and Shortlidge Rd.
“Slavery is unknown. People don’t realize it,” said Ronnie Byron, the president of Penn State’s chapter of IJM. “The only way to not know about slavery is not to look for it.”
With signs by a bucket for donations that read “Loose change to loosen chains,” Byron (junior-spanish and vocal performance) said they are ultimately trying to raise awareness, but also ask for donations and signatures for a nationwide petition to President Barack Obama called “Ask President Obama to Make Freedom Real.”
As of 6 p.m. and after two hours of standing, they had gathered 72 signatures.
Alyssa Williams, the vice president of the Penn State chapter of the International Justice Mission, said the Stand for Freedom movement is in its first year nation wide. The International Justice Mission is encouraging all chapters to stand, said Williams.
Over 400 schools are registered to participate in stands, Byron said.
The IJM employs nationals from various countries to offer legal assistance and aftercare for women and children pulled out of slavery, Byron said. According to the signs at the event, it costs $240 for six days of aftercare and $900 to pay for 20 days of investigation.
Most students will stand in shifts because of other commitments such as class, Williams said.
But Kerris Ackley, a semester minister for Penn State with New Life Ministries, is determined to stand all 27 hours.
“International Justice Mission is my passion. They are not only trying to make an impact here, they are trying to make it internationally,” Ackley said. “We are trying to love the oppressed.”
In the face of the cold, Ackley said he is standing for the 27 million people who do not have a voice.
Byron said that at Penn State, there is a stigma with preachers, so they take a different approach.
“We are not shouting,” Byron said. “We just want people to be aware. We just want to share the love of Christ.”
About 200 students are registered to stand at the event and she hopes they will have a large group of participants standing in the final hour, Byron said.
Ackley said that human trafficking happens in the country’s “own backyard.”
And the Super Bowl in New Orleans is an event that provides the opportunity to traffic women and children, Ackley said. The students at the event were holding signs saying, “Super Bowl Sells Sex.”
Byron said the Super Bowl is the largest sex trafficking incident in the nation. About 10,000 girls will be trafficked on Feb. 3 with the average age being 13, Byron said.
“The Super Bowl is a huge attraction. A lot of clientele who are U.S. citizens and they are rich,” Ackley said. “If you have a big event like that, it’s easy to traffic women and children.”
Lindeon Davis, a pedestrian who signed the petition, was unaware of the Super Bowl’s reputation for sex trafficking.
“Wow. That’s insane,” Davis (senior-industrial engineering) said. And for the 27 million slaves in captivity at one time, Davis said he knew the number was high, but he had no idea it was that high.