— me, in 2008, to the Senator Obama – Please, No Telecom Immunity and Get FISA Right mailing list
Five years later, grassroots civil liberties activism on social networks is back and better then ever. Back in 2008, we were organizing online, trying to stop the disastrous FISA Amendment Act, and Barack Obama had just responded to our open letter. We lost that battle, but the fight goes on … and today it went to the next level at Restore the Fourth‘s rallies across the country:
- In New York, 500+ people filled four blocks.
- DC featured an all-star cast of speakers, 400+ people, and 20 news organizations.
- In SF, the 300+ people wound up the rally at 611 Folsom, the home of the famed room 641A.
- The Salt Lake City rally ended with a march on the NSA’s Utah data center.
- People turned out in Raleigh, Charlotte, Portsmouth, Louisville, Rochester, Boston (tweeted by the state police), the Alamo (!), Kansas City, Cedar Rapids, Philadelphia, Denver, Wichita, Birmingham (with a ton of local press) Syracuse, LA, Dallas, Atlanta, Tulsa, Gainesville, Harrisburg, Carson City, Reno, Chicago, Portland, Austin, Midland, San Diego, Saint Louis, Indianapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Iowa City, Asbury Park, Houston, Hartford, Chattanooga, Huntington Beach, Savannah, Tempe, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Cleveland, Seattle, Redmond, Lansing, Bozeman, Missoula, Olympia, …
- Coverage on NBC, Fox News, The Atlantic, Reuters, CNN, CNET, Mashable, CBC, the Christian Science Monitor, the Times of India, Buzzfeed (with the “40 best signs“) and dozens of local TV stations and papers. Update, July 5: more from the Washington Post, the Guardian, ThinkProgress, VentureBeat, Firedoglake, Newsmax, Hullabaloo, All Things D, Nextgov, an AP video, RT, the Daily Caller, the Sydney Morning Herald, US News and World Report, and Vice.
How cool is that?
One thing that really excites me about Restore the Fourth is its transpartisan base. Tea Party Patriots and Occupiers, together again for the first time! And the strong support from EFF, Free Press, BORDC and others high-profile non-profits for today’s actions and StopWatching.us petition really highlights the connections and skills that built during the battles over SOPA and CISPA.
Even though today’s rallies are just a first step, their success a huge shot in the arm for civil liberties. The network of informed and connected people that came together to make today happen can be the basis for pressuring Washington as legislation moves forward in Congress and the calls for a investigating committee pick up momentum, and we start to head into the 2014 primary season. And as BORDC executive director Shahid Buttar discusses in Restoring the Fourth Amendment, local organizing offers opportunities to win back right on a city-by-city basis (as we did with Save the Rave!) while reinforcing national the movement. BORDC and allies have had several big wins already this year, and with drones, fusion centers, and the national ID card hidden in the immigration bill, there will be plenty of opportunities for more …
Going forward, Restore the Fourth’s goals are similar to StopWatching.us and the coalition of 80+ organizations who sent an open letter to Congress last month: reforming the Patriot Act, FISA, and the state secret privilege; creating a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying; and holding officials who were responsible for unconstitutional surveillance accountable.
Of course there’s a long way still to go and some big open questions. How to build on the initial energy? How to evolve the loose initial organization to something sustainable? How successful will Restore the Fourth be at crowdfunding? Will the media continue to cover the story? We shall see.
Still, it’s a watershed moment when any social network activism campaign makes the leap from online into the streets — something we never managed to do with Get FISA Right.
So major kudos to the Restore the Fourth organizers, both at the national level and of the individual rallies … and to everybody who turned out!