On July 4th, activists with the “Restore the Fourth” movement in close to one hundred cities around the United States held the first rounds of demonstrations against NSA surveillance programs, most notably PRISM, and from attending the Philadelphia, I was surprised by who attended the events, the diversity amongst the protesters and the size of the rally. The rally and march consisted between 120 and 150 demonstrators, and most encouragingly, this was the first time many of these demonstrators, which were mostly millennials in the their late teens to early twenties, attended any type of political event or rally. Even though the crowd was younger, the political views of the attendees were diverse and ranged from progressive activists, anti-war activists to libertarian activists, and the crowd consisted of some military veterans as well.
The Philadelphia contingent gathered at Washington Square Park in the shadows of Independence Hall, and then marched Thomas Paine Plaza which is across the street from Philadelphia’s City Hall. Unfortunately, my only gripe with the event is that it wasn’t held in the area of the Constitution Center, but, I assume that the demonstration wasn’t at the Constitution Center was because of prior events that draws national prominence. When the march ended at Thomas Paine Plaza, Philadelphia Restore the Fourth organizers propped up a makeshift podium, which allowed many demonstrators to air out their grievances against the Security State and it’s spying apparatus.
Those who spoke at the demonstration included former military intelligence officers who explained how they’d gather information on adversaries with an extremely narrow and strict scope, young demonstrators who explained how this issue motivated them to become politically involved and the most moving speech, or some form of expression because it was extremely short, came from Mahmoud Hallak, a young Syrian refugee who was displaced his country’s civil war. When the young Syrian refugee spoke, he spoke out against the Assad regime, but added that he wanted American’s to continue these demonstrations and to save their rights so he would be able to enjoy them if he becomes an American citizen.
Overall, I was impressed with the turnout from yesterday’s rally, especially because it was on a national holiday where a lot of people may already have had plans. As for the future of the movement, I am hopeful in seeing an endgame forming because in the Post 9/11 Era this is the only movement that has a chance at rolling back the national security apparatus that our country has created.