This July 4, thousands of people will be taking to the streets to “restore the fourth” – the principals of the Fourth of July and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, i.e. the right to privacy.
Inspired in part by the revelations about NSA spying leaked by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, nearly 100 local protests and events are being planned across the country to demand a halt to the U.S. government snooping on its own people. Snowden and other whistleblowers have released documents contradicting the assertion of the NSA, FBI and other government agencies that the federal government is not invading the privacy of U.S. citizens and only uses intelligence gathering against suspected terrorists.
Restore the Fourth is being organized by grassroots activists from around the country and across the political spectrum. The protests originated with users of Reddit, the “social news” and online community website. Reddit users have been vocal opponents of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) before Congress in 2011, and other attempts at curbing Internet access and privacy.
Media and civil liberties organizations in the Stop Watching Us coalition like the ACLU, 350.org, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Library Association and Free Press have endorsed the Restore the Fourth actions. “We need to show Congress that the American people won’t put up with such a flagrant abuse of power. Demonstrating in public is the most effective way to send a message,” wrote Josh Levy, Internet Campaign Director of Free Press, in a letter to supporters this week. Over 500,000 individuals, organizations and businesses have signed the Stop Watching Us open letter.
Some on Reddit forums have accused Restore the Fourth of being a tea party movement and others of being an Occupy Wall Street offshoot. Organizers state that they are neither, but a new nonpartisan effort. Reddit user and New York City protest co-organizer vArouet writes in a forum thread, “This organization is not the tea party, and it is not Occupy. We are a separate organization with separate goals… We will not turn away any organization that is willing to support us.”
The three main demands of the movement are:
1. “Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.”