Student created petition against trafficking gains support

You might not have noticed it, or ever thought anything of it. But when driving on Interstate 94 heading towards Spring Arbor, it’s almost impossible to miss certain billboards that advertise peculiar services.

Bold yellow and pink letters over a solid black background promote an Oriental Health Massage parlor. While seemingly innocent enough, the strange part comes further down the billboard where it says they are conveniently open seven days a week…until 1 am. Many people in the Jackson and Spring Arbor area know this as blatantly promoting human trafficking.

Currently, a petition with over a thousand signatures on it is being enforced through Change.org. When enough people have signed the petition, Michigan Representative Tim Walberg will receive a letter asking him for the removal of these billboards in Jackson.

“Every time I drive on I-94 I’m reminded that Jackson is a safe place for human trafficking,” said Dr. Matthew Hill, Spring Arbor University (SAU) professor of philosophy. “That sign is a physical reminder that the political leaders in the city of Jackson and Jackson county (many of whom claim to be Christian) are too scared or impotent to do anything about such depravity.” Opinions like these were expressed during one of Dr. Hill’s Ethics classes, which actually sparked the idea for the petition in the first place.

Josh Riddick, Lindsey Fluharty, Caleb Smith, Quinn D’Ascenzo, and Nikki Bonnema pursued the idea in Dr. John Hawthorne’s Spirituality, Faith, and Justice course as an “action” project. According to Riddick, his group was struggling to get things done with their other project ideas until the subject of the billboards came up in Ethics class and they decided to do something about it.

While there is currently no lawful proof that human trafficking takes place in these parlors, there has been questionable activity. Senior Lindsey Fluharty, as part of the action project, tried calling the phone number on the billboard to make an appointment, but reported that they wouldn’t let her do it and insisted she should make an appointment “for her husband” instead.

During further research of the subject, it was also discovered that the massage parlor has a profile on “Naughty Reviews.com.” A website who’s tagline is “Find naughty girls near you.” 

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A picture of the parlor’s entrance

In past interviews, SAU sociology professor Jeremy Norwood has said “There is no reason that a massage parlor should be open at 1 a.m.; nobody wants to purchase a massage at 1 a.m.”

At the time of this writing, the student-led petition currently has 1,157 out of the 1,500 signatures needed to continue the petition process. Dr. Hawthorne said he has started introducing the action projects to his class because his students said they “wanted to actually do something.” This is exactly what this group of students is doing, and if others continue to sign the petition, they will be too.

To look at and sign the petition, visit this link

By Nate Bortz

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