WASHINGTON — As the sun set on Thursday, activists and Internet users of varying political stripes gathered outside Senate offices across the country and in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to oppose any reauthorization of the Patriot Act and instead let key provisions that enable NSA spying to sunset on June 1st.
Internet activists organized the vigils via social media and email with less than 48 hours notice. Whistleblower Edward Snowden encouraged redditors to attend the protests during his reddit AMA on Thursday afternoon, and more than 12,000 websites spread the word about the action using a widget released by the Internet Defense League.
Advocacy groups promoting the vigils included ColorOfChange.org, CREDO Action, Demand Progress, Fight for the Future, the Free Press Action Fund, MoveOn.org, Popular Resistance, and Restore the Fourth.
“The U.S. government is losing our trust every single day that these illegal spying programs continue,” said Fight for the Future Campaign Director Evan Greer. “The crowds that gathered at sunset are only the beginning. It’s time we came together and let the sun go down on this dark age of government surveillance. Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.”
“Just a few weeks ago an expiration of 215 of any length seemed impossible, but hundreds of thousands have spoken out and upended conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom,” said Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal. “More than 13 years since the Patriot Act’s passage, and after craven abuse of Section 215 and other authorities, we are reminded why sunsets are written into bills like this: It’s time for the intelligence agencies to answer for their violations of the public trust.”
“The NSA got caught with its hand in the cookie jar,” said Restore the Fourth National Chair Alex Matthews. “The security agencies have been misusing the Patriot Act in order to spy on us all. Explain to me why we should let them keep doing it, instead of confining them to their real job: spying on actual criminals and actual agents of foreign powers.”
“The balance between national security and civil liberties has been out of whack for more than a decade,” said Free Press Action Fund Government Relations Manager Sandra Fulton. “People have had enough of government efforts to spy on all aspects of our lives. The nationwide sunset vigils have sent a signal to Washington: It’s time we closed this chapter on mass surveillance and restored everyone’s rights to connect and communicate in private.”