Movement to stop Lord's Resistance Army leader Kony goes viral in Washington state

The Tri-City HeraldMarch 8, 2012 

Lisa Longoria of Kennewick cried after watching 10 minutes of a half-hour video about Joseph Kony on Facebook.

Pasco High grad Bethany Vasquez started a donation website after seeing posts about the Ugandan guerrilla leader through her blog on Tumblr.

And Colton Jones already had seen the 29-minute video Tuesday night on Twitter, when it became the subject of his Wednesday civics class at Chiawana High School.

"There were only four kids out of 30 who hadn't seen it," said the Pasco senior.

Spearheaded by activist group Invisible Children, the Stop Kony 2012 movement has swept the internet, particularly social media sites, and is making waves among Mid-Columbia students.

Some have concerns about the legitimacy and effectiveness of the movement and its participants.

Advocates, however, say their only concern is teaching people about the Lord's Resistance Army and Kony's alleged war crimes, including abducting children to use as soldiers or for prostitution in central Africa.

"If we want world peace, we have to stop people like that," Jose Manzo, a senior at Sunnyside High School, told the Herald.

Invisible Children's promotional materials say their effort aims to educate people: "If the world knows who Joseph Kony is, it will unite to stop him."

The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, has indicted Kony for war crimes but he has not been captured.

Invisible Children's video, along with photos, banners, T-shirts and links, have appeared throughout the internet, virtually overnight. Just as quickly, youths and young adults have sprung to action.

Vasquez, who graduated from Pasco High School last spring and is now a freshman at Eastern Washington University, emailed her dean to ask for the university's support in coordinating efforts against Kony.

Manzo said he and his friends are hoping to organize a community effort in Sunnyside to collect clothes and other necessities to send to Uganda. Longoria, a sophomore at Kennewick High School, said she continues to see students posting about the movement on Facebook.

Vasquez and Jones also are hoping to take part in the "Cover The Night" campaign planned nationwide April 20.

Invisible Children is encouraging supporters to spend that night plastering their neighborhoods with posters, stickers and banners about the Stop Kony 2012 movement. Its online store sells "action packs" with materials including an action guide sell for $30.

The effort has its critics. National media has reported Invisible Children and other activist groups have misrepresented facts about the situation in central Africa.

Charity Navigator, an online charity evaluation service, gives Invisible Children a three out of four star rating overall, though it has a lower mark when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Jones said the money he spends on posters and stickers mostly will go to those making the materials and not directly to efforts to save those affected by Kony's actions.

"But at least it's getting the word out," he said.

And that seems to matter most the people dedicating themselves to the movement. Jones, Vasquez and Manzo said they have seen people describing the effort as just being attention-seeking on social media.

"That's the point, is to get attention," Vasquez said.

To read more, visit www.tri-cityherald.com.

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