The co-head of a viral online campaign to hunt down Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony has been hospitalized after being found semi-naked in the street, police and his boss said Friday.
The head of Invisible Children, the organizers of the Internet campaign sensation, said Jason Russell was receiving medical care for “exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.”
San Diego Police Department (SDPD) spokeswoman Andra Brown said officers detained a 33-year-old man Thursday and took him to a medical facility after passers-by reported him in the street in the southern Californian city.
“Officers responded to a radio call to check the welfare of an individual who was said to be running in the street, interfering with traffic, screaming; one person said that he was naked and masturbating,” she told AFP.
“Other people said that he was interfering with traffic, banging on the sidewalk that sort of thing. We have reports of being in various states of undress, and neighbors in the area were concerned about him.”
While declining to identify him by name, she said: “Officers contacted the 33-year-old white male... we detained him and transported to a local medical facility for further evaluation and treatment.”
The 30-minute YouTube video called “Kony 2012,” viewed by tens of millions of people, aims to wake up the world to atrocities committed by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight.
“Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better,” Ben Keesey, head of Invisible Children, said in a statement.
“The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday,” he added, without giving details.
“Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason,” he said, asking for privacy at “this difficult time.”
Invisible Children, Russell’s nonprofit group, tapped 12 influential policymakers and 20 celebrities with popular Twitter accounts, including Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie, to spread the video. Since then, the company owned by powerful producer Harvey Weinstein has contacted Russell to buy the film.
The phenomenal success of the video, including the savvy media campaign with tweets about Kony, has been hailed for inspiring young people to activism, but has suffered criticism including that it oversimplified a long-standing human rights crisis.