D.C.-area students and protesters symbolically abducted themselves on the White House Ellipse on Saturday as part of an international protest designed to draw attention to the plight of child soldiers in northern Uganda.
The protest was organized by Invisible Children, a group against Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony’s child army. Participants gathered at the Ellipse and tied themselves together with long pieces of rope, symbolizing a kidnapping. The group then marched silently from the Ellipse to the Capitol Reflecting Pool, where they listened to speakers and took part in a letter-writing campaign.
Abducted protesters were unable to leave until they were “rescued” in person by a “mogul.” A mogul was defined as a politician, celebrity or some member of the media that was able to bring attention to the event’s cause.
Protesters were rescued by an array of moguls, ranging from Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to Val Kilmer to Fall Out Boy band members Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz. Inhofe and the Fall Out Boy members also spoke at the event.
“We’re really looking for senators and congressmen and people who really have authority to end this war in government and with diplomacy,” said volunteer Jenny Otvos, a GW graduate student studying global public health. “What we want to do is just get the word out to every single person we possibly can and by doing that create a demand for justice.”
Documentary filmmaker Bobby Bailey, who first called attention to the child soldiers of Uganda with his film, “Invisible Children,” also made an appearance. Bailey said he hoped that the sheer scope of the event would be enough to raise awareness before the event, which took place in more than 100 cities worldwide.
“If we did it only in D.C., I’d have to say I don’t know if that would raise the banner enough for this issue,” Bailey said. “Because we’re doing it in 100 cities across the world, we’re hoping to activate an international coalition to actually kind of put in some policy and aggressively rescue the child soldiers.”
Katie Wills, a GW sophomore and member of GW War Child, a student organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness about child soldiers around the world, said she hoped the event would draw national attention.
“This is an issue that’s really important to me,” Wills said. “Our generation is pretty aware of the conflict in northern Uganda, but my mom didn’t know anything about it, I had to tell her. A lot of my teachers, professors that I’ve announced it to in class, didn’t know anything about it.”
Bailey said he felt heartened to see the 3,000 people that the protest’s Web site had estimated come out to support the cause.
“It’s amazing. That’s what our generation can bring,” he said. “With our benefits that we have, with the system that we live in that allows us to live free, our capacity increases and our capacity to do good increases.”