Activists ‘Cover the Night’ with posters

U students posted Kony 2012 signs throughout campus to raise awareness.

Cover the Night participants Emily Johnson, left, and Erik Johnson work as a team to put up several posters for KONY 2012 on Friday in the downtown area. They were part of a larger group that put up posters in various parts of Minneapolis.

Cover the Night participants Emily Johnson, left, and Erik Johnson work as a team to put up several posters for KONY 2012 on Friday in the downtown area. They were part of a larger group that put up posters in various parts of Minneapolis.

Colette Bell

 

People across the nation took to the streets with Kony 2012 posters and signs late Friday night but not with the fervor that took over the Internet when the video about the Ugandan guerilla leader was released in March.

At the University of Minnesota, 13 students participated in the protest against Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa, that night.

For more than 20 years, Kony has been active in central Africa. His army has used forced recruitment of child soldiers to kill and mutilate central Africans while young girls are forced into sex slavery, according to the United Nations.

He has made the Forbes’ World’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list twice since it was first published in 2008.

Invisible Children, an organization advocating on behalf of child soldiers in central Africa since 2005, posted a video about Kony on its website in March calling for his capture.

Soon after, the video went viral and caused an uprising of support for the cause. It instructed viewers to place posters and other creative forms of art around their neighborhoods the night of April 20 to raise awareness.

But news outlets across the world reported paltry turnouts for Cover the Night.

“I think people would get more curious if they see the posters everywhere,” said Pooja Patel, a global studies senior who helped cover part of campus Friday.

The video’s popularity triggered a lot of backlash from the public. Many critics claimed the video oversimplified the conflict in west Africa and failed to address the abuses of the Ugandan army during the conflict.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force is known for similar abuses, including rape and torture.

Many also criticized Kony 2012 supporters of ignoring issues in their local communities and focusing too much on those far from them.

“Just because this war is really, really far away doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about it,” said Mallory Beer, a global studies sophomore and the Invisible Children University chapter president.

Beer founded the University’s chapter with one other student her freshman year. She had been involved with the organization since eighth grade and decided to continue her work by starting the student group on campus.

In response to the negativity, Invisible Children added another aspect to Cover the Night, Beer said — participants were told to volunteer in their local communities.

The University’s Invisible Children members volunteered at People Serving People, a homeless shelter in Minneapolis.

With many followers early on, Invisible Children executives had expected participation to be much higher than the seven students who volunteered and the 13 who took part in Cover the Night.

Invisible Children will host a screening 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 155 in Nicholson Hall. The screening will be supplemented with a panel discussion and presentation from a Ugandan who survived the war with the help of the organization.

Though popular support for the issue has dwindled, the University’s Invisible Children chapter will continue the fight against Kony.

“Twenty-six years for a war is way too long, and Kony needs to be stopped,” said Kelsey Batkiewicz, a strategic communications junior and the club’s vice president.