Hundreds of people came out to support anti-child sex trafficking efforts Thursday, July 30, on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons at the Temecula Duck Pond.
With temperatures reaching into the mid-to-high 90s, protesters held signs at the intersection of Rancho California and Ynez roads while cars drove by and honked in support.
“I’m a mother of three, I was on Instagram and I came across this account that showcased child pornography,” protest organizer Sydney Takeshta said. “It was blatant child pornography. I reported it a million times, 30, nothing happened. I then contacted the local authorities because I was overwhelmed. My heart was broken. And I realized at this point I have somewhat of a platform. I am the owner of London Light Photography. I photograph a lot of artists, and I decided I’m going to use my platform to speak about this. Four weeks later, we have over 5,000 people who are now reporting on child trafficking and child pornography accounts that are located on social media platforms.”
Takeshta said she hopes more pressure will be put on social media platforms to regulate the perceived proliferation of child and human sex trafficking accounts that can be found on social media, she said.
“The law needs to be reformed,” she said. “The citizens need to unite, and we need to stand together. This is unacceptable. The images that I have seen, I will never forget for the rest of my life. I walk around every single day with a broken heart.
“We want everyone to know that this law is absolute trash and it needs to be changed. It’s the law that deals with social media platforms. It basically gives them thoughts of laws. It gives them a blanket to basically turn a blind eye on what’s being pushed on their platform. And it’s horrendous,” Takeshta said.
Also in attendance were members and representatives from anti-child trafficking groups, Rise Up for Children, Operation Underground Railroad and Children’s Riot, along with community members who came out to support the cause.
At the event, there was a photobooth and tents with T-shirts for sale and information from the groups.
“I feel like it is, is wrong for one and that it hasn’t been brought to awareness, really, until I feel like the last couple months,” Jasmine Harper of Menifee said. “Do people know the extent of how many kids are being trafficked? Social media needs to do a better job at censoring their images and what they allow on social media and exploitation needs to end.”
Her friend Cassidy Wheeler of Murrieta agreed.
“I feel like there’s not much awareness to this, and we are so focused on so many other issues in the world and what’s going on and there is no awareness brought to these children’s lives,” Wheeler said. “This needs to be a priority.”
Sophia Martinez Smith is a social worker for Riverside County.
“This is what I do for a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday,” she said. “So, it’s nothing different for me, but we have to raise awareness to help our children to help adults, in general, to fight against human trafficking.”
“Her profession really opened my eyes,” TJ Embler said, referring to Smith. “Somebody that’s not necessarily exposed to it on a daily basis, it’s a bit shocking to see the events of the world that go around that many of us have no idea that is happening. So trying to spread the word for folks like myself that have no idea about terrible things that are going on with children’s trafficking.”
Debra from Temecula said the issue isn’t getting enough attention.
“I’m here to build awareness for sex trafficking and missing children,” she said. “Our media doesn’t talk about it, and there are children that go missing every day and they refuse to talk about it. It’s been going on for years. I’m just here to help build awareness because I think a lot of people just aren’t really aware that this is a big problem.”
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.