Rarely do political opposites agree on much, but groups from all across the political spectrum came together Saturday at the Stop Watching Us rally in Washington, D.C., to oppose the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program. The all out war between U.S. major political parties has ramped up significantly in recent months making a civilized rally like this one something most people would have thought impossible.
The rally’s website listed sponsors covering a broad coalition of left- and right-leaning public advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Green Party, Color of Change and Daily Kos on the left, and the Libertarian Party, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, FreedomWorks and Young Americans for Liberty on the right.
“This is not about right and left; this is about right and wrong,” one speaker said in the video.
The sponsoring groups signed a letter to Congress expressing concern about the NSA’s broad access to private information, saying:
We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:
- Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
- Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
- Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.
A petition on the group’s website has garnered over 583,000 signatures so far. U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., was presented with 575,000 names at the rally.
The NSA surveillance program was revealed by Edward Snowden, whose name appeared on signs throughout the event. This statement from Snowden was read to the crowd, according to The Guardian:
“This isn’t about red or blue party lines, and it definitely isn’t about terrorism,” Snowden wrote. “It’s about being able to live in a free and open society.” He also noted that “elections are coming up, and we are watching you”. Members of Congress and government officials, he said, were supposed to be “public servants, not private investigators.”
William Evans, of Richmond, Va., embraced the nonpartisan atmosphere and message of the event. Wearing a “Richmond Tea Party” baseball cap and a Code Pink sticker that said, “Make Out, Not War,” he told The Guardian that he was protesting the “shredding of the Constitution,” adding that he was happy that “you guys on the left are finally starting to see it.”
“We may not always agree on our belief system,” he told the reporter, “but thank God we agree on the constitution.”
Watch the video produced by the organizers of the event: