Teenagers Blake Burris and Gabriel Coleman spoke to the
council about an awareness movement called Kony 2012 and a program
that is being implemented across the United States by groups who
want to stop Joseph Kony from enslaving children in Africa.
Kony has been a militant rebel in Africa for over 20 years. He took
over a rebel group in 1987 and as its leader renamed his army the
Lord's Resistance Army, or LRA.
Over time, as his number of soldiers dwindled, he began abducting
children and forcing them to serve as soldiers, or in the case of
young girls, as "wives" for his military officers.
According to the website Kony2012, the United States has military
forces in Africa seeking to stop Kony, but thus far they have been
unsuccessful. The website also claims the U.S. will cease its
efforts this year.
Burris and Coleman have joined others across the country to raise
awareness of this situation. Their hope is that if enough people
read and understand what is going on and speak out against it, the
government might be influenced to continue trying to stop Kony.
Burris and Coleman told the council they were coming to them with
respect and asking permission to participate in a "cover the night"
program that is being implemented by the Kony 2012 movement.
The boys want to lead a group who will, during the dark hours of
April 19-20, literally cover the town with posters and fliers
drawing attention to Kony 2012.
They said their hope is that "on the 20th when everyone comes to
town and sees the posters, they'll wonder what it is about, and go
to the website and learn about it themselves."
The boys said they wanted to put posters on building walls and
windows, sign and light posts, and anywhere else they could find.
Mayor Keith Snyder began by saying he was quite impressed that
the two had come to the city and had shown them such respect.
He also explained that the only property the city could allow the
posters on was their own.
City attorney Bill Bates added that the boys will need to visit
each building owner and get their permission before they put any
posters on their property.
In the meantime, Snyder named the buildings that do belong to the
city and told the boys they would have to contact Ameren about the light
posts. He also explained there were buildings in the downtown area
that belong to the county, and they would have to go to that board
to get their permission.
Tracy Jackson of the street and alley department mentioned the
boulevard along Wyatt Avenue is under city jurisdiction and often
used by the high school. Snyder confirmed that area could be used
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During discussion another issue that came up was how long the
signs would remain up. The boys said they would follow the direction
of the city and asked if a week would be too long.
The consensus seemed to be that having the signs up from Saturday
to Saturday was acceptable. It was also made clear the group would
be responsible for taking all the signs down once the week was done.
Police Chief Ken Greenslate said he would want advance notice of
who was participating, with names and phone numbers. He noted that
after dark on a Friday night, "my guys are bound to run into your
guys. We will want to know who you are and why you are there."
The boys said that was not a problem. They would provide the
requested list to the police department prior to the event.
It was also mentioned that even though this was a planned event,
they would have to observe city curfew rules.
Snyder also pointed out that this was something Alderman Tom
O'Donohue knew a little about. O'Donohue has family members who have
served on the mission fields in Africa. He said yes, he was aware of
Kony and that this isn't anything new. Kony has been active in
Africa for many years.
Kony began his movement in Uganda but has now moved out of that
region and is present, according to the website, in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, the Central Africa Republic and South Sudan. The
website also states that in his 26-year history, Kony has
implemented the abduction of over 30,000 children.
In the end, the boys were given a petition form to fill out and
told their request would be put on the April 2 voting agenda.
They were also told the city would give them a list of the
buildings and city properties they could use.
When their completed petition was handed over to the city clerk,
Susan Gehlbach, Snyder asked the council if it could be placed on
the consent agenda, and all agreed that it could.
As a general rule, placing an item on the consent agenda is an
indication that the council will approve it without any further
discussion. There have been occasions when an item has been removed
from the consent agenda for further discussion, but they are rare.
To read more about Kony 2012, visit this website:
[By NILA SMITH]