Rally participants face wind and rain in Grant Park

Chris Kirk

Video by Chris Kirk

CHICAGO–When the icy rain hit Grant Park on Saturday, McCormick freshman Alex Park pitched a tent. Around him, 3,000 other rally participants were calling out Oprah Winfrey’s name, waiting to be “rescued.”

The demonstrators intended to stay until a “media mogul” like Chicago residents Kanye West or Oprah came to support their cause: to end the use of child soldiers in Uganda’s civil war.

“They don’t have a chance to decide what their life should be,” Park said. “They just get trained to be monsters.”

Invisible Children, an activist group focusing on the war in Northern Uganda, sponsored the rally along with similar demonstrations in 84 other cities across the globe, according to its Web site. Chicago is one of few cities that media moguls have yet to “rescue” at press time.

The participants – many of whom were optimistic after Friday’s 80-degree-weather, packed lightly and wore shorts – faced their own hardships. The chilling winds, rain and hail pummeled their unprotected site at the park, soaking their shirts, pants, shoes, socks, tents and blankets.

Although some demonstrators played football, most stayed in their tents to avoid the harsh weather.

“A lot of people have left already,” Park said at 6 p.m. “But there are still a lot of people staying here, believing what they’re fighting for, and I’m one of them.”

And they waited. But Oprah did not show.

“Everyone pretty much knew by the time it hit 10 p.m. that no one was going to come,” Weinberg freshman Alice Lee said.

Threatened by a hailstorm, the group relocated to a parking garage. By that time the massive group had dwindled to a band of about 200 soaked and windswept rally participants.

Their tenure at the garage brought new adversities. With no bathrooms, participants relieved themselves in the grass outside with only the cloudy night to uphold their privacy, Lee said.

Still, some participants managed to fall asleep in their wet sleeping bags.

“It’s so little compared to what the children in Uganda are going through,” Communication freshman Jenny Lee said. “But it gave us a taste of what it feels like to be abducted and not have all our resources.”

The scene was not entirely dismal – some groups took to singing and playing the bongos.

“Whatever helps them get through it, right?” Alice Lee said.

Police told the participants they had to leave the garage around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, she said. She and the three other Northwestern students took a cab back to campus.

As of Sunday night, participants were lodged in a Chicago Methodist church, refusing to leave until they are “rescued.”

The sparse media coverage of the Chicago demonstration surprised her, Alice Lee said.

“It’s a story worth telling – that people would endure hail and storm and rain and just camp out there,” she said.

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