Restore the Fourth rally in Raleigh decries government surveillance

pseligson@newsobserver.comJuly 4, 2013 

Protesters against NSA surveillance, from left, Lucas Merriam, 20, Dylan Haskew, 21, and Sebastian Fernandez Giraldo, cheer as cars pass and honk in support. More than 50 people gathered on Thursday, July 4, at the N.C. State Capitol as part of the "Restore the Fourth" (Amendment) movement.


— As people flocked to the State Capitol to celebrate the freedoms declared on Independence Day, a different group was there to protest an American freedom they say is being violated.

A group of more than 50 “Restore the Fourth” protesters held up signs Thursday morning with phrases like “1984 was not an instruction manual,” “I’d tap that (without a warrant),” and “Those who would sacrifice liberty on the altar of security have neither.”

“Our Fourth Amendment rights aren’t being respected by our government,” said Leighton Cline, organizer of the Raleigh event.

The protest was part of the non-partisan Restore the Fourth movement that has developed in response to the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last month. The Raleigh protestors joined almost 90 other protests around the nation, including one in Charlotte.

Members of Restore the Fourth claim that the domestic spying, such as the surveillance of phone and Internet communications, revealed by Snowden violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” They say that the government’s blanket secret surveillance violates a citizen’s right for a warrant and the need for probable cause.

“Our right to privacy is one of the fundamental freedoms that makes America the country it is today,” said Cline, a student at N.C. State University. “So if the government is not going to respect this, it’s up to the people to come out here, stand up, and defend their rights.”

The protestors held up signs on the sidewalk across from the Capitol and cheered as people driving by in cars honked in support.

Mike Meno, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, spoke at the event about privacy issues, including the surveillance tools used by local law enforcement.

“Folks on every end of the political spectrum can agree that they have a right to privacy,” Meno said. “Privacy is one of our most basic freedoms. Unless law enforcement go through the proper channels, get a court order, get a probable cause warrant, they have no business to be monitoring everyday citizens doing perfectly legal activity.”

Proponents argue that less privacy is a fair price to pay for national security – the director of the NSA said recently that the programs have helped prevent more than 50 “potential terrorist events.” The surveillance is also constitutional, proponents say, because the NSA has to go through legal, albeit secret, channels to approve the surveillance.

The Raleigh protestors don’t see it like that.

“Even if you make the argument, ‘Oh, I have nothing to hide,’ everyone has things that just aren’t anyone else’s business,” Cline said. “And if they’re following you, looking at who you’re talking to, they kind of build a profile on you. Even if it doesn’t do anything dangerous today … it can still be used in the wrong hands in the future for very bad ends.”

Sarah Goushaw, 14, traveled to the protest from Burlington with her brother, Patrick. She gave up a birthday dinner to make it to the event.

“We know if we don’t stop it, it’s going to escalate and get worse,” Goushaw said.

Margaret Peeples, a retired librarian for the Wake County Public School System, also attended the event. Her sign stated: “We need more honest listening, less spying.”

“What’s a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than a protest?” Peeples said.

Seligson: 919-829-8983

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