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Kony 2012

Brockport joins national movement

By Lacey Sawyer COPY EDITOR
On April 27, 2012

Groups around the world gathered Friday, April 20, to raise international awareness of Ugandan criminal Joseph Kony and the horrific things he's allegedly done to children and members of the Ugandan community as the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

While the KONY 2012 video - created by the non-profit organization Invisible Children Inc. - raised awareness in the digital world, the international awareness day, coined Cover the Night, aimed to move the conversation about Kony's crimes into the physical world.

The LRA has been active since 1987, abducting more than 66,000 children and displacing more than 2 million Ugandans.

The army is known for its violent tactics,  which include abducting children in the middle of the night. These children are forced to become members of the LRA, for which they're made to murder and mutilate innocent civilians and sometimes their own family members.

The College at Brockport's Free the Children club, the Organization for Students of African Descent (OSAD) and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/Brothers and Sisters in Christ (IVCF/BASIC) did their part to help raise awareness through Cover the Night - Brockport Friday, April 20.

More than 35 participants gathered in Edwards Hall to view the KONY 2012 film and a six-minute preview video about Cover the Night, which was also created by Invisible Children. The campus clubs encouraged students to contact their local congressional representative to urge them to co-sponsor the KONY 2012 Congressional Resolution, which was introduced in both the House and the Senate following the release of the KONY 2012 film.

"We encouraged [students] to ask their local representatives for continued support from the United States to utilize existing funds to protect the civilian populations [from the LRA]," said Britton Lense, president of Brockport's Free the Children club.     "I strongly [encourage] anyone participating [in Cover the Night - Brockport] to contact local congresswoman Kathy Hochul, asking her to co-sponsor this resolution."

Lense said he had a meeting with Hochul's field agent, Jeremy Bennett, Wednesday April 18, to ask for the congresswoman's support. Lense said Bennett considered the KONY 2012 Congressional Resolution a "great noble cause" and that he "doesn't see why Hochul wouldn't co-sponsor it."

Lense said spreading awareness about Kony's tactics at Brockport and nationwide is very important because by making Kony "famous," government officials will have no choice but to take action.

"They were elected to listen to what the public wants," he said. "This will lead to the United States making a huge impact on capturing Joseph Kony and other top commanders (who commit war crimes)."

After viewing the videos and encouraging students to continue to support the fight against Kony, Lense said the clubs asked anyone interested to build awareness in the community across the village of Brockport by hanging KONY 2012 posters.

Lense said he wants to make it clear that continuing the event into the village had no affiliation with Brockport Student Government (BSG). Because of laws that could have made it illegal to post [KONY 2012] fliers, Lense said it was the individual choice of the student to participate.

"We did this to bring awareness to the next level," he said. "While students at the college are aware of Joseph Kony, we wanted to bring it to the next level and build awareness to older generations that might have been unaware."

Lense said more than 400 fliers were put up in the village, and it was a huge success to build awareness of Kony.

In addition, students on campus wore T-shirts they created at Free the Children club's last meeting. Students who purchased the Invisible Children's KONY 2012 Action Kit also wore T-shirts that were included in the kit.

Lense said fighting against the terror that Kony and the LRA inflict upon children in Uganda is what Free the Children club is all about.

"Our mission statement is to 'Free children from poverty, free children from exploitation, free children from the idea that they are powerless to change the world," he said. "Our club's focus is to raise awareness about poverty and exploitation in third world countries both on and off campus."

In addition to being involved in Cover the Night - Brockport, Lense said he and Kimberly Reinagel, a Roberts Wesleyan student, led a Cover the Night event in Rochester. They collaborated with five other local colleges, including Monroe Community College, Roberts Wesleyan College, Nazareth College, Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Geneseo.

Lense said the group met at the corner of Mount Read Boulevard and Lyell Avenue to post hundreds of fliers around the city. They also hung three large banners - one above the I-490 entering the city from both directions and one above NY 104.

"The reason I did this was because I am very passionate about helping those in third world countries and giving them the voice they deserve," he said. "These people often do not even live with any of the basic human rights that everyone should have - clean water, education or shelter."

Lense said while there has been talk about the idea that the KONY 2012 movement is a hoax and that Invisible Children, Inc. isn't a reliable organization, there are a few things people should realize.

"While the LRA only has between 200 to 300 people in it, this war has been going on for over 25 years," he said. "[The LRA] continues to abduct children to use them as sex slaves and child soldiers - there is no arguing against that."

Lense said although the army is relatively small, activity in the LRA has been at its highest in March - the same month the KONY 2012 film went viral on the Internet.

"After the film went viral, people all over the world knew about [the LRA]," he said. "And they made a statement of their own, saying they will not back down."

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