Lewis Griswold

Tour Against Trafficking bicyclers pedaling through San Joaquin Valley

Michael Fagans and Bishop David Rice, center, pose with fellow bike riders raising awareness about human trafficking.
Michael Fagans and Bishop David Rice, center, pose with fellow bike riders raising awareness about human trafficking. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

Michael Fagans is on a quest to end human trafficking, so he joined the band of bicycle riders pedaling into Visalia for the Tour Against Trafficking.

Supporters, including law enforcement and government officials, welcomed the riders Friday morning in Visalia at the Peace Officers Memorial.

On Monday, the tour will ride into Fresno.

Fagans is a filmmaker who co-produced “The Trafficked Life,” a 53-minute film about the topic. He is getting ready to make a feature-length version.

For him, it all started on Union Avenue in Bakersfield.

“I had a 40-minute conversation with a woman who was a licensed medical technician,” Fagans says. “She said she made more money on the street.”

He started working with the director of Magdalene Hope ministry and the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking, which led to the film. A five-minute trailer can be viewed in the blog section of the Tour Against Trafficking website.

Bishop David Rice of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin saw the film and chose human trafficking as the focus of the 750-mile ride from Bakersfield to Modesto.

“This is 21st century enslavement,” Rice says. “Vulnerable people are subject to fraud, force or coercion.”

The Polaris Project, which operates the national Human Trafficking Hotline, says traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion. Victims are forced into prostitution or pornography, or work long hours for low pay.

“In the United States, sex trafficking occurs in online escort services, residential brothels, brothels disguised as massage businesses or spas, and in street prostitution,” the Polaris Project says. “Labor trafficking has been found in domestic servitude situations, as well as sales crews, large farms, restaurants, carnivals, and more.

The International Labor Organization estimates there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally. About 5.5 million are children, and 55% are women and girls.

Tulare County Undersheriff Robin Skiles says victims are afraid to contact law enforcement, so others must.

“Someone has to stand up for these people,” Skiles says.

More public knowledge will help stop human trafficking, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz says: “The more we can get the word out, the more we can see the signs and see what’s happening in plain sight … we can do something about this.”

The Tour Against Trafficking has raised more than $30,000 in donations. Donations can be made at the website.

Leaving from Hanford, riders will arrive about noon Monday in Fresno at Fresno Pacific University, and about 2 p.m. at Holy Family Episcopal Church on Alluvial Avenue.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold