As people gathered around Boston’s Old State House to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence in celebration of the Fourth of July, protesters carrying signs stood along the barricaded area, denouncing recently-revealed secret government surveillance programs.
Spurred by the revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, about 25 activists gathered at the 9:30 a.m. Restore the Fourth rally.
The release of government documents by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, who is believed to somewhere in a Moscow airport, has sparked protests from various groups and outrage from the Obama administration, which is seeking to prosecute him on espionage and government theft charges. The documents were first published last month by the British newspaper The Guardian. Since the release, President Barack Obama, as well as members of Congress and intelligence officials have told citizens that they are not the target of the agency’s surveillance.
“The recent NSA revelations have just confirmed what I had already begun to suspect, which is that the searches that are being conducted are no longer in the spirit of the Fourth Amendment,’’ said Christopher Bucher, 22, of Burlington.
Activists seized the opportunity of the Independence Day holiday to highlight their concerns about whether the surveillance programs are contrary to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable government searches and seizures.
“If you cast a wide net and just entitle yourself to collect everything that shows up, it’s going to be a problem,’’ Bucher said about the NSA monitoring. “I want to raise awareness about [the surveillance]. I want people to know exactly what the NSA is up to. I want them to know their rights are being violated and they deserve better from their government.’’
Protester Matthew Krawitz held an American flag at the front of the rally against the barricade.
“We’re here to bring attention to the violation of our privacy,’’ said Krawitz, 42, of Swampscott. “It isn’t acceptable and it isn’t something we’ll stand for.’’
He said that the government’s searches were unwarranted and that “there’s no real accountability of how they use the data.’’
Krawitz said another protest against the surveillance would take place in Dewey Square this afternoon. Participants of Restore the Fourth would march with that rally, he said.
Signs poked through the masses, with messages such as “One Nation, Under Watch,’’ “Don’t spy on me,’’ and “No Spying in America.’’
Francis Usher created his sign in an alleyway off of Washington Street while the reading ceremony began.
“We’re here celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the right to peacefully assemble,’’ said Usher, 25, of Worcester. He said spreading the word about the spying was the protest’s biggest accomplishment.
“Our privacy is in jeopardy,’’ he said, making the finishing touches on his sign. It read “For Sale by Congress, your privacy.’’
“If you sacrifice your privacy, all your other civil liberties are at risk.’’