By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Crowds of men stood before the state capital Saturday afternoon in the cold and rain, barely flinching, because they knew it was nothing compared to what a growing number of Minnesota women endure every day.

For many, Saturday was a historic day to take a stand. For the first time in Minnesota, men joined the fight against human trafficking.

The anti-human trafficking organizations Men Against The Trafficking Of Others (MATTOO) and Breaking Free were behind a two-day event called the Demand Change Project. It was launched with the goal of ending human trafficking across the world.

Minnesota is one of the worst places in the country when it comes to human trafficking, according to the FBI. Studies show an average of 100 girls under the age of 18 in Minnesota are sold into sex traffic every month.

“Human trafficking is the second largest criminal market in the world today, however, it’s the fastest growing,” said Andrew Hanson, founder of MATTOO. “Why? Because of the strong demand. And where is that demand coming from? Men.”

The Maple Grove native says he tried to get involved in the anti-human trafficking movement for more than a decade. He said he founded MATTOO when he realized that the movement needed men to encourage other men to stop supporting the human trafficking market.

“We can rescue as many women and girls as we possibly can. However, if we don’t decrease the demand, another woman or girl might be put right back into that spot,” Hanson said.

Hanson wanted the MATTOO movement to start in Minnesota and then move across the world.

“Minnesota is the North Star State, the guiding star state, and so we should be the ones that set the example,” he said.

Hanson led a group of a few hundred men at a march and rally that ended in downtown St. Paul. Sharon Kennedy was among the women in the crowd. She was moved to tears.

“It’s like rape repeatedly over and over again,” said Kennedy, a human trafficking survivor. “You are a slave to the lifestyle, a slave to the money, a slave to your circumstances.”

She once lived a life of gang activity and prostitution. Today, she says she is writing a book about her life, and working toward her college degree.

“I’ve been crying and crying at home, knowing there’s actually men out there that don’t want to abuse women,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy stood watching as men in the crowd publicly signed a banner and pledged to refuse the sex trade. The banner will be taken to rallies across ten cities in the United States and Europe this summer.

Gary Fisk, of Iowa, was among those who made the pledge.

“I’d like to think that I show appreciation for women, but at the same time, I know when I go home tonight, I’ll show more appreciation for my wife and my daughter that’s there,” Fisk said.

The St. Paul police chief and several lawmakers were in the crowd to watch the rally.

Comments (23)
  1. Marie says:

    Thats great and all,but how sad that this even has to be an issue and people have to pledge to “refuse the sex trade”..umm it sickens me that people are really not much more then animals..Sick Sick Sick..I have a relative that was “taken in” by this kind of people at a young age due to lack of love and guidance at home,now at 22 is a prostitute,an addict ect…People that do this to others are no better then murderers, they kill a persons soul,and abuse their body. We need stricter laws when it comes to crimes against another human, time to toughen up and stand up, come on lawmakes,elected officials do your job.

    1. Wild Bill says:

      You do realize that HUMANS belong to the phylum Chordata, and the class mammalia…


      big biology words behind us, the only thing separating humans from other animals is technologies….

      1. Aaron says:

        And the ability to love, sympathize, empathize with one another. More important to being intellectual beings we are emotional beings who deserve to learn how to love everyone and treat them with respect. We are more than mammals we are God’s created, loved, and empowered children to do as he as done, which is to love all.

        1. Mark says:

          Animals are emotional beings too – anyone who has owned a dog with attest to that. The only thing that differentiates us from most animals is that after a certain age we can recognise ourselves in a mirror. So in answer, we are really just imperfect mammals -.divinity literally doesn’t have a place on this earth.

      2. Ginger Michele says:

        Yes, however the separation may also be that we, as human beings, have the right and the capacity to choose our actions and pursue a higher calling, with or without being a slave to our animalistic instincts. It just takes more effort:-)

  2. Jackie says:

    As a daughter,sister,aunt and a mother of 3, one of which is a little girl, I would just like to say THANK YOU!!!

  3. Victim Du Jour says:

    We have many laws on the books to stop ACORN people from giving tax advice, and home loan assistance to people involved in sex abuse.

  4. Sanctuary City says:

    Are people from Minnesota suppose to feel guilty for the things we are importing from countries well known for Human Trafficking?

    Chicago is another city ignoring immigration laws on purpose, and it’s only 6 hours away.

  5. Michael says:

    Interesting article, but after reading some of the comments here it doesn’t surprise me that Minnesota has some of the highest rates of sexual trafficking. Callous, uncaring, self centered greed replaced Minnesota nice a long time ago. Welcome to the society of “me”.

    1. Aaron says:

      Thank you for your comment Michael but I would argue that it isnt that we dont care about the issue of sex trafficking we dont, as a state and country, know about the issue. The fact that over 1,000,000 children every year are victimized in this way is absurd but how many citizens of this country know that. Or that the issue of human sex trafficking affect up to 20,000,000 peole worldwide. Many of them are innocent women and children. For this issue to end it is going to take MEN to accept the call to action from MATTOO to educate ourselves, educate other MEN about this issue, and vow to never engage in buying or selling woman and children for sex. Human sex trafficking can be abolished and it begins with addressing the Demand of Men to buy sex, starting with pornography. Michael if you are interested in being a voice for change please consider learning more about MATTOO and if you feel lead join in at an event.

  6. Joy says:

    One of the largest sex-trafficking ring was busted in my neighborhood a few years ago. The next-door neighbors of the host house said they had know idea it was a sex house. Time to wake-up Minnesota. Stop turning a blind-eye to the horrors of sex-trafficking. Some of the girls are as young as 12 years old.

  7. idiotweary says:

    can’t believe some of the responses.
    someone stands up for something and they get blasted. really?

    kudos to these men for standing up.

  8. Bluepmil says:

    “I’ve been crying and crying at home, knowing there’s actually a female out there that think men out there that don’t want to abuse women,”

  9. Meg says:

    Most organizations that help women and girls who have been exploited are led by women. That is partly because the victims have been so wounded by the other half of the species that they may never trust them again. Kudos to Andrew Hanson for creating a public way to rally men around the issue of human trafficking. Breaking the silence and educating others are incredibly vital first steps. I’m proud that this movement has started in our city, and proud of my friends (men and women) who invested so much time and energy to make it happen.

  10. Frank says:

    Nice story. Hopefully this can make a difference.

  11. Debra says:

    God bless these men. I’m so glad they are taking a stand!

  12. Philip J Cenedella says:

    Excellent job dudes!

    – phil

  13. Nike mercurial soccer cleats says:

    Glad to see all the speakers, really wonderful content. Do not know if you like Nike mercurial soccer cleats it?