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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Peaceful protest at City Hall

A group of young adults tried to bring some attention to the kidnapping of children in Uganda by camping outside Spokane City Hall over the weekend until they could be "rescued."

They were part of a national protest called "Invisible children" which set up demonstrations in some 80 cities around the United States.They started Saturday at Lewis and Clark High School, about 160 strong, on Saturday, then shifted to City Hall on Sunday where they passed the time drawing on the sidewalks and streets with chalk and wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags.

By Monday morning, about 30 were on or around the grassy knoll outside the Post Street entrance to the council chambers. According to the rules for the nationwide protest, they couldn't leave until a high-ranking government leader or a celebrity came to make a public statement on behalf of the kidnapped children, thus "rescuing" the protesters and setting them free.

Considering that the kidnapping of children in Uganda and other East African countries is pretty far down on the list of local concerns, just about anything they did would raise consciousness to some higher level. So they can count themselves successful.

But the protest had a few unusual twists.

For one thing, the local protesters were a little picky about who could rescue them, and how they should consider themselves rescued.

City Council President Joe Shogan came out around 9 a.m. and offered a statement of concern over the issue. They decided to stay.

It's an important issue, Shogan said, not just in East Africa but in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the protesters hadn't been any problem, they just weren't leaving. "I wasn't of a sufficient rank to set them free," he said later .

This is particularly interesting, considering that protesters in other cities were "rescued" by statements from Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Foxworthy or Steve-O. All admittedly have more starpower than Shogan, but the Spokane protesters were, after all, camped out at CITY Hall and there aren't a lot of A list entertainment celebrities hanging around town.

But the Spokane folks wanted someone from Congress, Jenny Mavity, an organizer from San Diego, said. Which makes sense on one hand because the federal government has more stuff going on with East Africa than city government. But is problematic on the other hand, because Congress is, you know, in session, back in the other Washington.

Protesters deluged the local Congressional offices' phone lines all morning -- even before they opened. Sometime after 9 a.m., they were told someone from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' staff would be over directly. This cheered some, but had others saying they wanted to hang at City Hall until the congresswoman showed up in person.

Staffer Kristina Sabestinas did show up and did read a statement of support for the issue. Then she broke the bad news to them: McMorris Rodgers isn't due back in town until mid May, on the weekend of the Lilac Parade. If they wanted to stay camped out 'til then, Sabestinas said, she'd do everything possible to have the boss swing by.

The protesters decided to consider themselves rescued, packed up and left.

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.