Over a thousand protesters from the "Restore the Fourth" movement rallied together Thursday in New York City's Union Square to oppose sweeping National Security Agency surveillance programs, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The protesters carried signs reading "Stop spying on us, protect whistle blowers!" and marched down Broadway, chanting "They say wire tap! We say fight back!"
The new organization describes itself as a grassroots non-violent movement which demands congressional reforms to surveillance programs targeted at US citizens and increasing civil liberties. Similar rallies organised by "Restore the Fourth" took place across the nation in over a dozen cities, including Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, DC.
"In the month following Edward Snowden's leaks about U.S. government programs collecting information from phone and Internet companies, some U.S. citizens seemed unsurprised and resigned to being monitored. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center last month, 56% of Americans think the collection of telephone metadata is acceptable.
The loosely coordinated activist group helped organize protests in more than 80 U.S. cities using online message boards and Twitter. There were demonstrations in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles. In Utah, protesters gathered near the new $1.5 billion NSA data center, which is scheduled to open later this year.
The movement even spread overseas, where protesters showed up in front of the U.S. Consulate in Munich, Germany, donning Edward Snowden masks.
In San Francisco, protesters walked from City Hall to the Embarcadero with signs that read "Legalize the U.S. Constitution" and "I refuse to sacrifice my liberty for security." Police estimated there were at least 250 people protesting, but said the group was growing larger throughout the day.
"The Fourth Amendment is there to protect us, but there comes a time when we have to step in and protect it," Parker Higgins, an activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said to the crowd. He later told CNN.com that getting people on the street was a way to let officials know that there are people who care about their privacy."
One protester commented, "What annoys me the most is that people don't take it upon themselves to challenge all of the bogus laws that have been passed".
The organizers called for the rally to take place on July 4, a national holiday that commemorates U.S. independence from Great Britain in 1776. The group also seeks to bring attention to the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.