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Stop Watching Us rally draws thousands

Organisers of the Stop Watching Us protest rally that took place in Washington DC over the weekend, are calling it the biggest anti-mass surveillance protest in US history, as thousands arrived to listen to speeches, march and to deliver a petition to government, requesting an end to the mass collection of data on American citizens by the NSA.

The protesters gathered initially outside of Union Station, a short walk from the Capitol Building where the majority of speakers would make their voices heard. Signs were handed out to attendees, stating “Stop Watching,” followed by a blank space where people could fill in whatever it was that they didn’t want the government to look in on. Several examples can be seen in the video created after the event.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdifI2l1mWA’]

Many of the speakers at the reflecting pool included musicians and political campaigners, poets and whistle-blowers alike, leading to some interesting takes on the problem at hand. The general consensus was the same however: Stop Watching Us.

It wasn’t just focused inwards at America’s surveillance of its own citizens though, The Guardian quotes Thomas Drake, former NSA official and whistle blower, who was shocked to learn that the NSA had tapped the phone of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

“For what? Why would you violate her rights? Because, what, she might know something about terrorism?” he said. “What is that all about? They’re an ally! They’re partnered with us. I mean there are threats to the international order and stability. Why would you breach the trust of the chancellor of Germany?” he said.

Edward Snowden was also a big focus of the day, with many a sign professing thanks to the NSA document leaker, who is currently residing in Russia under temporary asylum. While obviously unable to attend, a statement from the ex-NSA contractor was read out:

“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 drew attention to the fact that certain American political elections are coming up soon, with large portions of Congress and the Senate due to contest their seats next year, and warned them that the public was watching how they reacted to the news of the NSA’s actions.

Some politicians have beat him to the punch though and already gunning for NSA crackdowns, most notably Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who is hoping to shackle the NSA’s power with a redraft of the Patriot Act.

KitGuru Says: Did any KG readers attend the protest? If so, how do you think it went?

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