Left via Twitter, Right: Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Footage from an anti-child trafficking protest in London on Saturday shows demonstrators congregating outside Buckingham Palace, chanting, “Paedophile! Paedophile!” and holding signs bearing the slogan, “Prince Andrew we just wanna talk.”
This weekend protesters in London joined others at demonstrations in Manchester and Liverpool, organised by a group called Freedom for the Children UK. Organisers wrote on the group’s Facebook page that the purpose of the marches was to “bring awareness to the current reality of child exploitation within our own communities and around the world”.
According to 2017 statistics, one in four victims (10.1 million victims) of modern slavery worldwide were children. In the UK, according to 2019 Home Office data, “Nearly half (43 percent) of all potential victims of trafficking – 4,550 victims – were children aged 18 and under.”
On the Freedom for the Children UK Facebook group, administrators add that they want to “encourage our judiciary systems to provide proper representation to survivors who have been impacted by child exploitation, and to serve maximum sentencing to perpetrators of this issue”.
In Liverpool, over 100 people marched from St George’s Hall to The Crown Courts, where they held a sit down meditation and listened to songs from local performers. In London, protesters marched from the London Eye to Westminster, holding signs bearing messages like, “Child trafficking is not a conspiracy theory,” and, “Keep your fucking hands off our children!!!”
A splinter group then made their way towards Buckingham Palace, holding signs bearing messages such as, “Why does the Queen knight so many paedophiles?” and, “Why is Andrew still free?”
The Queen has knighted a small number of public figures who have later been exposed as paedophiles or accused of child sexual abuse, including television presenter Jimmy Savile and Liberal MP Cyril Smith.
Virginia Giuffre, who was allegedly trafficked by the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, has accused Prince Andrew of having sex with her multiple times when she was just 17 years old – allegations the Duke of York has strenuously denied.
Andrew was a friend of both the convicted paedophile Epstein and his ex-partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently facing child sex trafficking charges that she denies. The Duke of York stepped down from Royal Family duties in November of 2019, after a disastrous BBC interview in which he was asked about his friendship with Epstein and, at one point, claimed that he does not sweat.
In the UK, child sexual exploitation is an issue regularly seized upon by far-right groups, evident at a recent “Hearts of Oak” protest in London. There, Tommy Robinson disciples were quick to blame the majority of child sexual assault on British-Asian “grooming gangs”, when official statistics show that almost 85 percent of men found guilty of sexual activity with a minor in England and Wales are white.
Freedom for the Children UK appear to be cognisant of how their movement could be hijacked, writing on their Facebook page that they are “apolitical” and “accepting of all religious/spiritual denominations, political affiliations, races and orientations”.
According to the 2018 “Child Trafficking in the UK” report, produced by the children’s rights organisation ECPAT UK, “The numbers of convictions for trafficking offences are steadily rising, yet remain low compared to the large number of crimes recorded.”
While the vast majority of protesters at the London march carried signs calling for greater awareness of this issue, there did appear to be a small fringe element present.
Some in attendance held placards referencing “#PizzaGate”, a widely debunked conspiracy theory about high-ranking US Democratic Party officials being involved in child trafficking rings. Another sign referenced “adrenochrome”, the compound a shady “globalist” elite are supposedly harvesting from the blood of trafficked children, according to a centuries-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.
UPDATE 25/08/20: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Cyril Smith was a Conservative Party MP, when in fact he was a Liberal Party MP.