WASHINGTON — The crowd’s signs range from the earnest — “Privacy IS security” to the humorous — “Sorry about all the porn, it was research.” The crowd is equally diverse, with everyone from members of the peacenik group Code Pink to a man waving a “don’t tread on me” Marines flag. All are gathered for one purpose: To request that the United States government stop spying on them.
Chants of “restore the 4th” were common an Independence Day rally in Washington’s McPherson Square, a shout making reference to the Bill of Rights article barring unreasonable search and seizure. Speaker Madea Benjamin of Code Pink argued that even a “love it or leave it” strategy wouldn’t work for many activists.
“A lot of people say ‘if things get really bad in the United States, maybe we can move somewhere else, like Canada’,” she told the crowd. “Don’t count on it. I can’t even go into Canada, because the FBI has shared our files with the Canadian government. And when people like me, who protest gettin getting into the war with Iraq … some of us can’t even go to countries like Canada.”
Benjamin went on to urge celebration of whistleblowers, with words of praise for Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, John Kiriaku and Thomas Drake. Those men leaked information about domestic spying programs, CIA torture programs, American drone activities and National Security Agency inefficiency, respectively.
Mentions of former Marylander Snowden got especially loud applause from the crowd.
“It’s very clear that he’s trying to show us for the first time that the NSA is focusing domestically,” said attendee Erik Sperling.
“The firewall is being eroded — it’s basically been destroyed.”
Mudusar Raza, a practicing physician and Islamic community leader from Frederick, made the argument that each amendment of the Bill of Rights relied on other amendments, even though each individual part is often most vigorously supported by groups that oppose each other.
“We are a step away from a police state,” he told the crowd. “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. You need to continue this effort.”