"Stop Watching Us": 1,000 Rally and March in Washington, DC Against NSA Spying

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The first large protest to stop NSA mass surveillance brought 1000 people to march and rally at the U.S. Capitol on October 26, the anniversary of the passage of the fascist 2001 USA PATRIOT Act. Organizers, part of StopWatching.us, a coalition of 100 organizations including most actively the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Libertarian Party, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and the ACLU, began in June 2013 to collect signatures to a letter to Congress. Their message seeks reform of the Patriot Act's provisions for surveillance, and "a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying."

1,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. October 26, 2013 to protest NSA spying. Photo: flickr-SWUDC

Days before the rally, StopWatching.us debuted a video (which can be viewed online at youtu.be/aGmiw_rrNxk) in which Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Phil Donahue, actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, John Cusack, and Will Wheaton, and others described the extent of NSA spying and called for opposition. "History tells us we need to watch the watchers," says Stone, recalling the crimes carried out by Richard Nixon before internet use. John Cusack says, "The threat to our civil liberties has never been greater." Artist Molly Crabapple: "Some concerned email providers have chosen to shut their doors rather than cave to government subpoenas to collect their customers' data." The video warns that anyone could be "caught up in the NSA dragnet, including average citizens not suspected of a crime." The video ends with a call by Gyllenhaal: "We need to end mass, suspicionless surveillance."

The most basic demands of the crowd came through in chants, in particular, "Mass surveillance has got to go!" and "No secret courts!" Most of the marchers were under 35 years old, from the Washington area, dressed mostly preppy, many involved in the internet-based movement for electronic privacy. They carried signs saying things like "Defend Constitutional Rights—Stop Mass Surveillance," "Thank you, Edward Snowden," and "Unplug Big Brother." There were hand-made signs satirizing the National Security Agency's name and their spying on cell phone calls of world leaders and billions of ordinary people. Most of the crowd's anger was directed at the NSA, and secondarily, at Obama and Congress. A "Yes We Scan" banner brought by Occupy Wall Street parodied Obama's campaign slogan. There was almost a complete absence of U.S. flags, unusual for a civil liberties protest. "Flying" at 14 feet was World Can't Wait's model of the U.S. Reaper drone used by the CIA over Pakistan and Yemen, bearing the message "Stop U.S. Wars & Surveillance by Drone."

A statement to the rally from Edward Snowden (who is currently in Russia, with temporary asylum status) said in part: "We've learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong."

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