Kony activism reaches audience

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By: Eileen Qian and Stephanie Zhang

Photo courtesy of Invisible Children

On March 5, the world was hit by a short film that quickly spread virally around the globe. The 30-minute film entitled entitled “Kony 2012” was created by Invisible Children, an organization whose priority is to raise attention about the crimes of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). According to the non-profit, Kony is one of the world’s most wanted criminals for his egregiously violent activities in the past several years, the likes of which include the kidnapping of children and training them to join the LRA. Kony trains many of these children to mercilessly murder their own families and also turns some of the young girls into sex slaves for his army.

In Invisible Children’s film, they promote an event called Cover the Night on April 20, in which supporters worldwide will cover the streets of their respective towns and cities with posters bearing the face of Kony, hoping to not only bring awareness to the crimes that Kony has committed, but also to drum up public support for military action against him.

The emotional impact of the film touched the hearts of many Gunn students, prompting students such as senior Natasha Allen and sophomore Sara Ameri to commit to raising awareness about Cover the Night. Ameri, who will be participating in the event, says that the actions of Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell have taught her that one person can make a difference and to have the courage to stand up for what she believes in. “I have often felt discouraged from protesting or standing up for what I believe in because I feel like I, as an individual, might not have a strong enough voice,” Ameri said. “But ‘Kony 2012’ the movie proves this wrong.”

However, according to Allen, raising awareness is not always easy in a high school environment. “Students have a lot going on in their lives,” Allen said. “It’s hard to catch their attention and begin the spark that brings about change. I want them to distinguish the difference between feeling sympathy and empathy.” She wants others to know the difference between feeling pity for people and wanting to help them and better their lives. Fortunately, because Allen has worked with the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition (STAND), she has learned to remain passionate and patient despite the long process. “Although it was hard at first, I have learned to be okay with not seeing the direct effects of my actions, and as a result, it has helped me build a stronger character,” she said.

Although Allen appreciates the work that Invisible Children has done to raise awareness, she does not support Invisible Children as an organization and the methods that they are promoting as the resolution to the problem. “I think that military intervention is not necessary and that there are other, more peaceful ways to achieve their goal,” she said.

Not only has the promotion of Cover the Night garnered international recognition, it has also attracted the attention of local police departments due to potential legal issues arising from plastering posters in public places, as leaving the posters and not cleaning up is littering.

On the day of the event there will be extra police officers in Palo Alto facilitating the event and making sure that peace is kept. “If people are going to gather, our role is going to be the same as any other case and be peace officers and make sure that people have the right to express themselves as stated under the Constitution, even if there are differing ways that people do that,” Palo Alto Police Lieutenant Zachary Perron said.

According to Perron, the officers will ensure that the public is safe and that no laws are broken. “Everyone has freedom of expression, and it is their right to hold signs and have a protect demonstration,” he said. “However, if people want to hold signs and have a demonstration, but are going to litter the ground with paper or trash, then that is technically a law violation and that is something that we will address.”

Cover the Night is expected to span from sundown of April 20 to sunrise the following day. Thousands of people are expected to attend in an attempt to bring justice to the families that Kony has affected.