published Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Viral 'Kony 2012' video spurs locals into action against human trafficking

  • photo
    Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, is the subject of a video by San Diego-based Invisible Children.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Adam Lewis was more than outraged after he watched the "Kony 2012" video on the Internet.

The Cleveland, Tenn., resident was moved to action.

"It was eye-opening," said Lewis, a chief political strategist for The Alderman Group in Cleveland. "Living in Southeast Tennessee, you become complacent and forget other folks' lives may not be as easy around the world."

Spurred by the video's message against Ugandan guerilla military leader Joseph Kony's history of abducting children and forcing them into a life of violence and sex trafficking, worldwide supporters of the Kony 2012 campaign -- including groups in Cleveland and Chattanooga -- are planning to hit the streets at sundown Friday.

In an event titled Cover the Night, the groups say they'll spend the night covering any and all public property with posters and planting stickers bought on Invisible Children's website.

The posters and stickers for Cover the Night now are sold out.

Those participating are expected to abide by the law, not vandalize, and respect private property, Lewis said.

The event is to further the hype "Kony 2012" caused and bringing awareness to those who still haven't seen the video, he said. The "Kony 2012" video has been viewed more than 80 million times on YouTube alone, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"By [Friday], the hype will have died down, but Cover the Night will help keep the message going," Lewis said.

Bailey Bussart, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, along with two friends, started a Facebook event to invite fellow UTC students to participate in a Cover the Night event that will hit the Chattanooga area, specifically the college community, she said.

"We want to go all through Chattanooga, but campus is going to be hit the hardest," Bussart said. "I'm pretty sure a poster is going to find its way outside of every building on campus. I hope [university officials] won't be mad about it."

On Facebook, more than 600 people have said they're attending Bussart and friends' Cover the Night event. Although the event's central meeting place is UTC's University Center, Bussart said there's little worry about trying to organize such a large group at this point.

"If there's any hope of organization, it'll start there," she said.

UTC has taken no issue with the upcoming event, school spokesman Chuck Cantrell said. It's not unusual for UTC to see student activities that have a political agenda, he said.

"That's what a college campus is for," Cantrell said. "We're happy that students are creating an environment where ideas are exchanged."

Lyndsey Mahloy started another Cover the Night event on Facebook. Like Lewis, hers focuses on Cleveland. She is corresponding with Lewis to share ideas and have the two groups meet together the night of the event, she said.

That kind of attention is needed to put a face on "the most important social issue today," said Dennis Miller, executive director of external relations at Bryan College, a Christian liberal arts college in Dayton, Tenn.

Miller recently was part of a two-day seminar in Atlanta on human trafficking.

"It's the forefront of so many other problems," he said. "People are abused and disrespected."

On March 16, "Kony 2012" director Jason Russell suffered a meltdown in which he walked naked down a San Diego sidewalk, a result of "reactive psychosis," the New York Daily News reports. It came after "Kony 2012" received backlash questioning Invisible Children and the video's intent.

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