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A Big Friday Night at... the Kony 2012 Protests!

Binging on mob justice in Central London.

by Clive Martin
23 April 2012, 1:00pm

Yep, that's right. The Kony movement lives to fight another day. They haven't been deterred by the mass scepticism over their cause, nor have they been disheartened by the embarrassing sight of their shadowy figurehead wanking and screaming at the devil outside Sea World. Like the Cosa Nostra or fans of Bob Marley, they're still willing to fight for the cause long after their leader has ceased to be. No, the Kony 2012 movement will not go quietly into that good night.

According to my sources, the Kony 2012 protest day would start off with a chant, which would be kept secret until Invisible Children's outraged masses had gathered at Trafalgar Square. When this mantra had reached a furious enough pitch, the protesters would peel off in splinter groups to "cover the night", which sounds like the name of Kings of Leon's next album, but was actually the name of a plan to flyposter sheets of paper from the $30-dollar Kony "protest pack" all over the city.

We were warned that this would happen in metropolises and provincial towns the world over at the end of the first video, with its chilling semi-threat that anti-Kony demonstrators would "blanket every street in every city until the sun comes up". I went along to find out if this act of militant charity would come off.

The average age of the attendees was about 14, and the proceedings had the feel of an all ages concert that had been shut down too early, leaving a bunch of bored kids in the lurch with nothing to do in Central London. Numbers wise, it wasn't too bad in the end, peaking at about a hundred or so. But to be honest, there are unicyclists in Trafalgar Square that draw bigger crowds.

Appropriately sized riot horses were brought in to help disperse the volatile, but diminutive crowd. (Honestly, I have no idea why there was a little pony dressed as a unicorn in Trafalgar Square on Friday night. If you do, please put me out of my misery, because it's kinda been bothering me.)

There were plenty of unofficial Kony posters from those who obviously didn't want to stump up the $30 for an "action pack". This one kind of looked like an Odd Future album cover. Have OF come out either way on Kony yet? Why are they keeping the world waiting?

These guys were the hardcore wing; the perma-hooded, left-of-Marx anarchists who still can't go back to Geneva after they shot a police horse with a flare gun at the G4 summit. Luckily, the pony dressed as the unicorn escaped their righteous gaze.

Though for some reason the members of the black (and red) bloc neglected to tell me that the police's reflective jackets make it impossible to photograph them without the flash going berserk and the picture looking shitty. Maybe they were MI5 plants, or perhaps they just assumed that I was as protest-hardened as they were. I guess that's the price you pay for being part of a generation that gets politicised by a hashtag.

"Find Kony". "Fuck Kony". Two very different perspectives on the issue but it was heartening to see that these girls could remain friends despite their difference of opinion.

At this stage, the whole thing felt totally rudderless, like a PE lesson where the teacher hasn't turned up. Nobody was really sure what they were supposed to be doing. They needed a leader. I asked around to see if anybody from the upper echelons of Invisible Children (an Invisible Man, perhaps?) were about, but either they were too busy taking part in running tear gas battles in Seattle, or they were in fact invisible.

The problem with power vacuums is that they often give the chance to nutters and fringe characters to take over, and this event was no exception. This fella in the red T-shirt took the whole weight of the Kony movement upon his shoulders and appointed himself leader like a deranged general going on TV and promising everyone free cigarettes forever after a military coup.

His name was "Ash" and he wasted no time in taking the reigns, leading a series of bellowing war chants, one of which was just his name over and over again. He was an odd fellow, endowed with a staggering sense of enthusiasm that made you wonder if he'd somehow been personally slighted by Joseph Kony himself. I asked him what he did, and he claimed to be an actor. I'm not sure if he was joking, but he did have that kind of relentlessly positive vibe that drama students only share with charity muggers and trendy vicars. Anyway, he was pretty much a young, English version of Jason Russell. Expect to see his face on a mural one day.

Slowly but surely I began to feel the spirit of Angela Davis and Zach De La Rocha rise up inside me. Inspired by Ash and his catchy chants, the movement began to make sense to me. It was time for this previously cynical hack to get stuck in and "cover the night", and not just in the journalistic sense.

After listening to Ash shout "we need landmarks!" for about 15 minutes, it was decided that everyone should splinter off into groups of about ten and get on with the night covering. I decided to follow Ash's crew, which in the end consisted of pretty much everyone there, his innate charisma proving a problem when it came to spreading the cause. He began to lead everyone down Whitehall towards the Houses of Parliament, like some kind of Pied Piper who really cared a lot about kids and didn't at all want to take them up the top of a mountain, turn them into rats and fuck them. (That's how that story goes, right?)

Daily Express readers, look away now. These people care not for your past wars. The Kony movement lives in the present.

We were in dangerous territory now, but despite what happened to Charlie Gilmour, that other great student Sandinista, they decided to cover the Cenotaph anyway. Keeping a cautious eye out for prying feds, Ash and his disciples risked a six-month stint in Belmarsh and set about work on the stunt that could well prove to be the game changer for the Kony movement.

At some point, Ash decided that the best way to spread the movement across London was to start sticking posters to the front of buses. It was a smart idea, like how New York graffiti artists used to tag up subway trains to show the rest of the city the message of the ghetto. Unfortunately, this just ended up looking a bit shit really, like he was an over-ambitious singer using guerrilla tactics to promote his screamo band.

By now, something dark had overtaken Ash and he'd entered full-on Rage Against The Machine mode. Something about the short walk down the highway of power had infuriated him; he had gone from an idealist to a radical. No longer was he content with handing out leaflets, he was taking the war to the people and he didn't give a fuck about the human collateral. Our bright-eyed boy, once so full of hope, had gone from Bob Geldof to Gerry Adams in the space of just a few hundred yards.

Finally we reached the Mount Olympus of British politics, determined to create the biggest parliamentary stir since Eric Pickles gobbled up that dodgy chicken tikka masala in the canteen.

There were a few old school peace campaigners dotted around Parliament Square, looking on with bemusement at the exuberant Kony kids like those people who've always been into metal complaining about celebrities wearing Motorhead T-shirts.

Finally, the chant of the night was revealed. The secret combination of vowel and consonant sounds that would open up a trapdoor in the sky about Joseph Kony's head and send a bolt of lightning hurtling into the centre of his evil fucking heart. What was it? It was: "Stop Kony."

I don't know if this was a measure of people's disappointment, but it was shouted in a kind of tongue in cheek way by everyone bar Ash, who screamed it towards Parliament with the righteous anger of a man who had a lead role in

Die Nelson Mandela Story

stolen away from him by government funding cuts.

The problem with reaching Parliament so early was that there wasn't really anywhere else for us to go. Head south and you're just hitting Westminster Bridge and a load of overpriced off-licences. Go north and you're retracing your steps, and possibly risking the wrath of the police forensics teams who were probably dusting the Cenotaph for prints by now. So everybody kind of parted ways, disappearing into the night, perhaps off to coat their own ghetto with the message of Kony 2012. So, I decided to take a flyer and bring it back my own part of the capital.

If just one hen party or Jagerbombed recruitment consultant could see this, our work would be done. We had covered the night, although it has to be said that we did miss a bit.

Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive

Photos: Joe Ridout


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