Published time: October 26, 2013 15:45
Hundreds are marching on the National Mall in Washington, DC to protest covert NSA surveillance operations on the anniversary of the Patriot Act. The organizers are planning to present Congress with a petition which has acquired over 570,000 signatures.
Stop Watching Us is a collective of 100 public advocacy groups, among them the American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom Works, as well as individuals like Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who worked with Edward Snowden to expose many of the NSA’s surveillance procedures. The rally is scheduled to begin at 11:30 am local time on October 26 – the 12th anniversary of the US Patriot Act.
Demonstrators wearing cardboard surveillance camera hats carry a sign depicting U.S. President Barack Obama at the “Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance” march in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
“First, we are asking for a congressional investigation so we can shed light on exactly what the National Security Agency is doing. Secondly, we ask for reform of federal surveillance law, specifically Section 215 of the Patriot Act, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the state secrets privilege,” Rainey Reitman, EFF activism director and lead organizer for Saturday’s rally told tech news outlet CNET on Friday.
18:05 GMT: Former US Department of Justice ethics adviser, Jesselyn Radack, has read a statement from Edward Snowden. “This isn’t about red or blue or party lines, and it definitely isn’t about terrorism…it’s about power, control, and trust in government,” it said. “It’s about being able to live in a free and open American society,” the statement continued. “Elections are coming and we are watching you.” Snowden went on to remind the crowd that no phone call in the USA is made without the NSA keeping a record of it. “They’re public servants not private investigators,” he added.
17:59 GMT: Whistleblower Thomas Drake is addressing the crowd. “I am fortunate that I did not end up in actual prison,” he said. “The last thing a free and open society needs is a digital fence around us.” He called for the restoration of the Fourth Amendment and said that NSA surveillance “engenders fear and erodes our freedom.”
Demonstarators carry signs at the “Stop Watching Us: A Rally Against Mass Surveillance” march near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 26, 2013. (Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)
17:50 GMT: One speaker addressed the crowd reciting the poem “First they came…” generally attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller. 17:15 GMT: Crowds in Cologne, western Germany, have gathered outside the city’s iconic cathedral. The banner asks: “Should we all become a ‘Merkel’ before our rights are taken seriously?” Allusions to the Stasi ‒ the old East-German secret police ‒ can be seen in the crowd; government surveillance remains a sensitive issue.
17:09 GMT: The march has arrived at its point of destination, gathering at the foot of the US Capitol. A variety of speakers are expected to give speeches to the crowd berating NSA spying and government monitoring of communications.
16:45 GMT: According to independent journalist, Rania Khalek, who is present at the march, it is currently “about a block long,” with other eyewitnesses estimating it to be even longer. The crowds are now chanting: “They say wiretap; we say fight back!” 16:30 GMT: The march is now moving, to the sound of heavy drums.
16:25 GMT: RT’s Andrew Blake, who is present at the march, has identified an effigy of a drone in the crowd, alongside a man in an Obama mask wielding a model surveillance camera.
16:21 GMT: Further chants of: “Hey hey, ho ho, mass surveillance has got to go!” can be heard.
16:12 GMT: The crowd is chanting: “We are the people. Defend the Bill of Rights!”
16:06 GMT: Speakers are beginning to address the crowd, who come from “across the political spectrum,” demanding that Congress “investigate the full extent of the NSA spying program.”
Among cities involved in sympathetic protests are Louisville, Kentucky, Austin, Texas, Birmingham, Alabama, and eight different cities in Germany, according to rally leaders.
David Segal stepped up to denounce NSA online intrusions, commenting that people’s communications “define our lives and even our very humanity…as we express our hopes and fears….they are watching us. They are running algorithms that study all of us…”
He went on to add that communications are ‘open for their taking’ to loud boos from the crowd.
“There would be no place to hide if this government ever became a tyranny….there would be no way to fight back,” he said.
15:42 GMT: According to witness estimates, almost a thousand have already arrived in Washington DC. @sinak – There a must be a thousand people here already, and the buses haven’t even arrived yet! #StopWatchingUs
15:41 GMT: Some 120 people attended a simultaneous rally taking place in Munich on Saturday, according to an official police statement.
On Wednesday a German government spokesman said that Berlin had information the NSA could have been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting Germany to announce that next week it would be sending senior intelligence chiefs to Washington
15:30 GMT: Participants of the US protests are wielding builboards bearing the “Stop Watching Us” slogan, alongside further statements demanding the cessation of mass NSA spying. Others have pictures of Snowden’s face and messages of thanks. One group in attendance has brought along a giant parachute bearing the logo of the collective.
15:20 GMT: Crowds are beginning to gather in Washington DC.
15:15 GMT: Stop Watching Us have produced an official video giving a platform to the voices of a variety of celebrities, politicians and activists who oppose NSA spying.
They’re supposed to spy on other governments, such as, Angela Merkle et al, just like they spy on our government…
NOT THE PEOPLE!!!