Last night was supposed to be the big night.
After a record breaking viral video and over 1400 likes on the local Facebook event page, the youth mobilized by the Kony 2012 campaign were supposed to come out in force to “Cover the Night”. They were to blanket Seattle, and the rest of the country, “demanding justice on every street corner” as the viral call-to-arms video proposed.
So did they?
At least here in Seattle, the answer seems to be a resounding “kinda”.
A disappointing worldwide turnout did not stop what participants there were in Seattle from dispersing across the city and plastering up hundreds of signs, many of them emblazoned with the face of Joseph Kony – the African warlord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army that the campaign has put a bullseye on in an attempt to end the terror he has unleashed on central Africa for more than two decades.
Devin Erickson, a 20 year-old University of Washington (UW) sociology student and leader of the college’s KONY 2012 club, met with fellow club members Amethyst Williams, 18, and Alison Guajardo, 20, at UW’s Red Square before heading downtown to put up posters.
“[After the video went viral] we had 100 new members for our chapter but we have not seen any of them at the meetings,” Erickson said, referring to the difficulty of taking an online campaign offline.
As she, Guajardo and Williams waited for other “Cover the Night” participants to gather at Red Square, it slowly became apparent that most of these new club members were still MIA. Only about a dozen people eventually showed up.
Zach Curtis, who drove to Seattle from Edmonds out of curiosity to see how the night would play out for the KONY supporters, thought he had stumbled upon a counter protest when he saw a woman holding a sign that read “Stop arresting the homeless, start arresting public masturbators.”
Curtis thought that the woman was referring to Jason Russell, the Kony 2012 organization founder who was captured on video on a street corner in San Diego running around naked, yelling incoherently and making crude sexual gestures last month.
But after further conversation, the woman clarified that she knew nothing of the Kony campaign and that her sign was reflecting a recent personal experience.
“Apparently it was just a coincidence,” said Curtis as he rolled his eyes and laughed.
The signs for Kony 2012, which many event participants had printed out themselves, were similar in design and size to typical concert advertising, so some passersby like Keith Hanson, mistook the canvassing for something other than a humanitarian cause.
“I just thought you guys were putting up signs for a show or something,” said Hanson to Guajardo as she tried to explain the KONY 2012 cause in the parking lot of the 7/11 near the Space Needle.
Even after last night, it’s hard to say what the future holds for the social petri dish that is the Kony 2012 campaign. As the sun came out in Seattle today, the impact of the campaign was apparent, despite the low turnout. Hastily hung posters, some of them even hand-drawn, could be found around the city, with an especially strong showing in West Seattle.
As tempting as it may be to declare the widely-criticized campaign a total failure, there’s no doubt that more than a few people on the streets of Seattle are hearing the name Kony for the first time today.