Thousands have marched on the National Mall in Washington, DC to protest covert NSA surveillance operations on the anniversary of the Patriot Act. The organizers have presented Congress with a petition which has acquired over 580,000 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 began at 11:30 am local time on October 26 – the 12th anniversary of the US Patriot Act.
“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.
23:59 GMT: The organizers of the rally Stop Watching Us have released a YouTube video highlighting events of Saturday’s march.
23:20 GMT: Twelve years after Americans were stripped of their rights in the name of fighting terrorism, thousands have gathered in Washington DC to protest unconstitutional NSA spying programs revealed by Edward Snowden, and call for repeal of the Patriot Act. (FULL STORY)
22:51 GMT: As thousands of people hit the streets to challenge illegal surveillance by US intelligence agencies in Washington DC, the US federal government for the first time in legal history officially announced it was going to use evidence collected without a warrant in a criminal case against a suspected terrorist.
22:45 GMT: Video of Edward Snowden's statement being read by former US Department of Justice ethics adviser, Jesselyn Radack.
22:36 GMT: The rally in Washington DC did not achieve its
ultimate goal, Wide Awake News founder Charlie McGrath told RT.
He believes in order to have their voices heard by the
government, the protesters should unite the majority of the US
population under their banner.
“We need a 100 million, 200 million, 300 hundred million people to wake up and realize that we have turned into a Stasi-style police state,” McGrath said.
“Congress seems to be interested in nothing more than collecting the revenue that they need in order to maintain their positions of power by the same military and security-industrial complex that is watching the people of this country and the world illegally.”
21:37 GMT: Ahead of the mass rally, the US Department of Defense published a YouTube interview with NSA Director and CYCOM Commander General Keith Alexander trying to justify the agency's programs. So far less than 2 percent of viewers agree with Alexander’s reasoning.
21:10 GMT: Here is Edward Snowden’s full statement read out in front of the crowd at Washington DC:
In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government. We’ve learned that the US 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.
We’ve also learned this isn’t about red or blue party lines. Neither is it about terrorism.
It is about power, control, and trust in government; about whether you have a voice in our democracy or decisions are made for you rather than with you. We’re here to remind our government officials that they are public servants, not private investigators.
This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind government to stop them. It’s about our right to know, to associate freely, and to live in an open society.
We are witnessing an American moment in which ordinary people from high schools to high office stand up to oppose a dangerous trend in government.
We are told that what is unconstitutional is not illegal, but we will not be fooled. We have not forgotten that the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights prohibits government not only from searching our personal effects without a warrant but from seizing them in the first place.
Holding to this principle, we declare that mass surveillance has no place in this country.
It is time for reform. Elections are coming and we’re watching you.
21:03 GMT: A banner reading “Thank You Snowden” united thousands of protesters at the Capitol in Washington DC.
20:42 GMT: Protesters in Chicago have gathered in the Federal Plaza to make it loud and clear that the US Government works for American people, not the other way around, and that they "exist to protect our rights, not violate them.”
20:29 GMT: Megaupload founder and online activist Kim Dotcom is supporting the Stop Watching Us movement for privacy and internet freedom, and reminds US citizens how back in 2007 US President Barack Obama promised to protect them from illegal and unconstitutional wiretapping.
20:12 GMT: Writer and a privacy advocate from San Francisco Rainey Reitman and attorney Kurt Opsahl stand next to hundreds of thousands of petitions signed to protect privacy rights.
20:09 GMT: Watch RT's Gayane Chichikyan report from the rally.
20:01 GMT: Activist inspires Stop Watching Us protesters with the opening theme for James Bond movies.
19:45 GMT: Twelve large boxes of the 575,000 petition
signatures have been presented to the crowd at the foot of the US
Capitol. The number of signatories now stands at over 580,000.
19:40 GMT: NGO Code Pink: Women for Peace have a colorful
delegation at the march.
19:16 GMT: “It is very important that people speak out, take action, march, rally demonstrate against these practices of the government,” anti-war activist Richard Becker told RT. “What can really bring a change is the actions of the people,” he said, stressing that “none of the progressive changes” in the history of the US have ever been “originated inside the Congress or in the White House”.
Watch RT's full interview with Richard Becker.
19:05 GMT: Congressional representative Justin Amash
told the crowd that bringing his anti-NSA bill to Congress was
his proudest moment as an elected official.
18:48 GMT: “Our own government has become a threat to freedom, at home and abroad,” said former Congressman, Dennis Kucinich.
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."
17:50 GMT: One speaker addressed the crowd reciting the
poem “First they came…” generally attributed to pastor
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.
16:51 GMT: Crowds are chanting: "This is what democracy looks like."
Stop Mass Spying rally in DC pic.twitter.com/yVYrD1TjTo— Gayane Chichakyan (@Gayane_RT) October 26, 2013
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
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
15:42 GMT: According to witness estimates, almost a
thousand have already arrived in Washington DC.
15:41 GMT: Some 120 people attended a simultaneous rally
taking place in Munich on Saturday, according to an official
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
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
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.