Protesters marched on Capitol Hill in Washington on Saturday to protest U.S. spy programmes, revealed this year by wistleblower Edward Snowden.
Crowds of protesters carrying signs that read: “Stop Mass Spying,” “Thank you, Edward Snowden” and “Unplug Big Brother” gathered at the foot of the Capitol to show their negative attitude towards the online surveillance programmes widely used by the National Security Agency.
Reporters claim that it’s hard to estimate the real size of the protet march, with organizers saying more than 2,000 attended. U.S. Capitol Police said they do not typically provide estimates on the size of demonstrations, Reuters reports.
To march on the Capitol Hill, liberal privacy advocates joined members of the conservative Tea Party movement in opposition to what they say is unlawful government spying on Americans.
“I consider myself a conservative and no conservative wants their government collecting information on them and storing it and using it,” said Michael Greene, one of the protesters.
“Over the past several months, we have learned so much about the abuses (of privacy) that are going on and the complete lack of oversight and the mass surveillance into every detail of our lives. And we need to tell Congress that they have to act,” said another protester, Jennifer Wynne.
The march was organized by a coalition known as “Stop Watching Us” that was established by more than 100 public advocacy groups and companies, including such giants as the American Civil Liberties Union, privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, Occupy Wall Street NYC and the Libertarian Party.
The organized march was held in order to urge the U.S. loawmakers to reform the legal framework supporting the NSA’s surveillance programmes.
The Obama administration and some more government bodies have previously voiced their support for the NSA programs, assuring that they are extremely important for protecting national security and helping thwart past militant plots.
They have also insisted that the surveillance programs are carefully overseen by Congress and the courts.
Snowden’s disclosures have raised concerns that NSA surveillance may span not just foreign, but domestic online and phone communication.
“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,” Stop Watching Us said in a letter to members of Congress posted online, calling for a reform of the law known as the Patriot Act.
That law was passed twelve years ago, back in 2001, and was aimed at improving anti-terrorism efforts. However, now it appeared to be under scrunity by privacy advocates who say it allows “dragnet” data gathering.
“Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong,” Snowden said in a statement before Saturday’s rally. Wanted in the United States on espionage charges, he is now in Russia.
The march comes a few days after German Chancellor called President Barack Obama to complain that the U.S. intelligence may have monitored her mobile phone, saying that would be â€śa serious breach of trustâ€ť if confirmed.
â€śShe made clear that she views such practices, if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally,â€ť Merkelâ€™s spokesperson told announced.
For its part, the White House denied the allegations, saying that the U.S. is listening in on Merkelâ€™s phone calls now.
â€śThe president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,â€ť White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
He went on, adding: â€śThe United States greatly values our close cooperation with Germany on a broad range of shared security challenges.â€ť